A panel of NHS digital leads have said that frontline digitisation of the NHS must involve the public and patients.

During a session at NHS Confed Expo, called ‘Levelling Up: making the best use of digital technology to support the delivery of efficient, effective and safe care’, a range of topics were covered – from Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to the principles of frontline digitisation.

However, it was how the NHS must change their ways moving forward which showed the panel members in the most animated and passionate state.

Luke Readman, regional director of digital transformation at NHS London, kicked things off by claiming that “systems we implement have to be useable, useful and include the public in the process”.

“We don’t properly invest in networks of people to learn and be taught and we need to know that collaboration is normal. We should avoid reinventing the wheel all over the place,” he said.

His thoughts were echoed by Professor Graham Evans, executive chief digital and information officer at North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board.

He told the audience: “We need to be a bit more collaborative, learn from our neighbours, put our pride to one side and stop recreating and reinventing the wheel.”

Professor Evans also described data as “our new coal” that must be “used in an intelligent way”, which involves including patients in the digitisation process before and after receiving data.

The idea of the public playing a more prominent role in the frontline digitisation of the NHS was also welcomed by Emma Harris, assistant director of digitising social care at NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Jo Dickson, chief nursing officer at NHS Digital.

Dickson said: “Frontline digitisation would mean a big improvement from a patient perspective. Using digital well means patients can be more involved and that’s what must happen – patients and clinicians involved together.”

Plans to level up and converge electronic patient records (EPRs) were first revealed earlier this year and Digital Health recently spoke to members of our CIO Advisory Panel about the potential policy direction.