The new health and care secretary has committed half a billion pounds of fresh investment to transform the use of technology in the NHS, to help achieve full provider digitisation, improving productivity and patient care.
He indicated further technology investment would follow.
In his first speech since being appointed to the post, Matt Hancock listed technology as one of his top three priorities along with workforce and prevention of illness. He made clear that he saw technology as a critical component of the NHS modernisation required to meet rising demand and expectations and improve outcomes.
Approximately £412m will be made available to transform technology in hospitals, which Hancock described as a “further step to full provider digitisation”.
In addition, a further £75m will be available for trusts to replace paper-based systems with electronic systems. Hancock said early adopters like Cambridge had shown how e-prescribing could reduce medication errors by up to 50%.
Hancock described the £487m as just the start and noted “the entire £20 billion proposed for the NHS will be contingent on modern technological transformation”.
In a speech to staff at West Suffolk hospital on Friday 20 July, Hancock, who is the local MP, said: “From today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming. The opportunities of new technology, done right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”
He said the challenge of finding or inventing the technology was relatively small compared with the challenge of embedding and embracing it. “Not only can the right use of technology save time and money, it can improve patient safety.”
Hancock singled out Babylon Health as exactly the kind of transformative technology he wanted to see become more widely used across England, saying the Babylon Health app worked brilliantly for him.
“Some people have complained that the rules don’t work for care provided in this revolutionary new way. Others have said the algorithms sometimes throw up errors.
“Emphatically the way forward is not to curb the technology – it’s to keep improving it and – only if we need to – change the rules so we can harness new technology in a way that works for everyone: patient and practitioner.
“I want to see more technology like this available to all, not just a select few in a few areas of the country.”
Hancock also cited Scan4Safety – barcode tracking in hospitals- as an innovation that’s driving improvements in patient safety while saving money that can be invested in the front line.
“There are pockets of excellent work taking place all over the country,” he said. “There is huge variance in take-up, leading to variance in outcomes with patients getting different outcomes based on where they live. This variance must reduce.”
Hancock praised the RCN’s ‘every nurse an e-nurse’ approach is showing how electronic health records and other smart tools can help nurses in and out of hospital work together, to comprehensively address patients who have a range of health problems.
It is unclear yet whether the £487m is new money or part of the £1.3 billion from the “Paperless 2020” funding, committed by the former health secretary Jeremey Hunt in February 2015.
Of the £1.3 billion money, £385m was allocated to the Global Digital Exemplar and Fast Follower programme in August 2017.