The digital health and social care plan has been published and reveals that £2billion has been allocated to help bring the health system into the 21st century. 

The plan, published on 29 June 2022, sets out the government’s vision for transforming health and care with digital technology.

This includes £2billion from the spending review which has been allocated to help digitise the sector through the roll out of electronic patient records (EPRs). The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, has already outlined his EPR targets earlier in the year, where he set the aim of 90% of NHS trusts to have an EPR in place by December 2023, with the remaining 10% in the process of implementing them.

The document also features a commitment to extend remote monitoring and virtual wards with a target of September 2024 set for when patients are able to complete their hospital pre-assessment checks from home across the country .

The plan also sets out how the government will improve citizen access to health information with a number of features planned for the NHS App.

According to the Department of Health, by March 2023 NHS App users will be able to:

  • Book Covid-19 vaccines through the NHS App, as well as the NHS website
  • Receive NHS notifications and messaging, including reminders and alerts for Covid-19 vaccine booking and prescription readiness
  • Start to see notifications and messaging sent from their GP through the NHS App
  • Start to view and manage hospital elective care appointments across participating trusts
  • See new information within their GP record by default, with the ability to request retrospective information at their practice
  • Access a user profile where they can set and manage contact details and register with a GP practice

Dr Timothy Ferris, national director of transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “By harnessing the power of digital and data we can improve both how people access services and the way we provide care.

“Today’s plan for digital health and care sets out an ambitious vision for a future where the NHS puts more power and information at patients’ fingertips, and staff have the tools they need to deliver better and more joined-up services for those who need them.”

Targets for joined up care and a strategy for a national digital workforce

The digital health and care plan also makes reference to Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), which are due to established as statutory bodies on Friday (July 1).  According to the document by March 2025 “all clinical teams in an ICS will have appropriate and secure access to a complete view of a person’s health record, including their medications and key aspects of their history”.

Furthermore, the plan mentioned the need to bolster the skills in the workforce by:

  • Developing a National Digital Workforce Strategy to bridge the skills gap and ensure the NHS remains an attractive place to work
  • Grow the specialist data and tech workforce through graduates, apprentices and experienced hires, creating an additional 10,500 positions
  • Embed digital skills development into university curriculums to support our future and incoming workforce
  • Provide a digital learning offer for adult social care staff, such as offering accessible training and online resources

Sajid Javid added: “We are embarking on a radical programme of modernisation that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048 – not 1948, when it was first established.

“This Plan builds on our Data Strategy to revolutionise digital health and care, which will enable patients to manage hospital appointments from the NHS App and take more control of their own care at home, picking up problems sooner and seeking help earlier,” he added.

“Ensuring more personalisation and better join up of the system will benefit patients, free up clinician time, and help us to bust the Covid backlogs.”

The Plan for Digital Health and Social Care will also promote the use of digital health and social care records with their adoption being backed by £25million in 2022.

Simon Bolton, chief Executive at NHS Digital, said: “Technology is central in empowering patients and giving them more control when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

“The NHS App has changed the way millions of adults in England access healthcare services in the three years since its launch and these new features will go further to improve how patients can manage their health and to reduce the burden on the frontline.

“We are committed to working with our partners across health and social care to deliver the digitally enabled transformation of the NHS and create a system which provides better outcomes and access for patients.”

The publication of the Plan for Digital Health and Social Care follows the publication of ‘Data Saves Lives: Reshaping Health and Social Care with Data’, a new strategy launched by the government to drive transformation in health and care by reshaping the way data is used.