From NHS Providers to the National Care Forum – there has been a lot of reaction to the government’s digital health and care plan.
Interim chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery:
“We welcome this plan which rightly signals digital transformation as a high priority within the NHS, and aims to set out a clear national vision for a digital future, consolidating previous national guidance.
“It also provides a much needed clearer plan of action for trust leaders as they support digital transformation in their organisations and their local systems. Trust leaders recognise the role digital tools will play in recovering elective performance and supporting the workforce sustainably.
“The focus on patient experience and empowering patients to be more involved in their care and data is particularly welcome, and the plan also rightly recognises the role of NHS England in supporting commercial negotiation with technology suppliers and leveraging purchasing power at scale. We welcome the commitment to produce a new framework for NHS action on digital inclusion, which has rightly risen up the agenda since the sector’s response to the pandemic.
“The investment previously announced in the spending review will begin to help trusts address some of the digital basics and foundations, however trust leaders continue to feedback that funding remains one of the largest issues. Therefore, the department should accelerate the ways this funding reaches the frontline.
“While providers will understand the need to increasingly factor digital maturity into the centre’s regulatory approach, this oversight needs to be proportionate and appropriate given the number of priorities trust leaders are tasked with.”
Dr Pritesh Mistry, digital fellow at The King’s Fund:
‘This is a welcome plan that brings together years of disparate commitments and helpfully consolidates them into one strategy. Particularly welcome is the clarification that, while care needs to be digitally enabled, patients will not be forced to engage with the NHS solely through digital channels.
‘Greater use of digital technology promises exciting improvements to health and care, but if this plan is to be realised, minsters need to keep a focus on the mundane yet important work of maintaining systems and updating basic tech infrastructure. There also needs to be recognition that different parts of the country are not all starting from the same place. To avoid exacerbating health inequalities, the support made available to implement this plan should be targeted at those areas with the biggest improvements to make.
‘The most significant risk to this new vision of digital health and care is the lack of capacity among the health and care workforce. NHS and social care staff are already under intense pressure and many will wonder where they will find the time needed to learn the new skills to use technologies, change organisational culture to work better with tech innovators, and avoid the pitfall of implementing new tech without adequately consulting the staff and patients who will use it.’
Professor Vic Rayner, CEO at National Care Forum:
“I welcome the focus the government has on supporting digital transformation across the social care sector. There are many opportunities that digital can offer and the plan brings together a range of initiatives, setting out a pathway that talks ambitiously of a future where digital supports people and communities to live the lives they want.
“It is vital that this programme of change continues to listen, adapt and work with the care sector so that the opportunities it presents are available for all.”
Julian David, techUK CEO:
“The UK’s response to Covid-19 has shown that the scale of opportunities that digital, data and technology offer to address the challenges faced by health and social care is enormous, and the UK needs to capitalise on this potential.
“The Digital Health and Care Plan sets out a clear vision for fostering an ecosystem that has collaboration at its core and where innovation can truly thrive. As the document makes clear, to deliver this vision on the ground, the NHS and social care will need to work closely with industry as true partners. Only by doing so will we realise the true benefits of digital transformation.”
Director of the Digital Healthcare Council, Graham Kendall:
“Digital technology can revolutionise health and social care, but we are currently only scratching the surface of what is possible. We welcome the government’s commitment to digital transformation, set out in this plan, and hope this will be an important step towards a thriving digital ecosystem that works for patients. We strongly support efforts to deliver a more responsive and personalised service that allows staff to work at the top of their skillset.
“But the devil will be in the detail, and it is crucial to invest in high quality services. The scale of our ambition should be far higher than simply booking hospital appointments online, though that of course is a welcome step forward. A genuinely transformative digital approach would re-engineer the whole pathway to deliver a far more responsive service to patients, supporting patients 24/7 at home, and only bringing them in for face-to-face appointments when clinically required.
“We need to focus on what really matters for patients – addressing their problems swiftly and through channels that they prefer – working across organisational boundaries and informed by real-time feedback. That requires constant improvement and means that we need to rethink how the NHS, local authorities, and industry work together effectively. It’s vital that we strike the right balance between driving change centrally, such as through the NHS App, while allowing space for innovators to develop new approaches that can be adopted swiftly as they prove their value.”
Jacob Haddad, CEO and co-Founder of accuRx:
“It’s great to see the Plan’s promise to rapidly expand the use of technology to deliver faster and more personalised healthcare for patients across the country. Improving patient access to information about their care will play a key part of this.
“For integrated care systems to really meet digital expectations to transform healthcare, staff across the NHS must be given the ability to communicate quickly across services, and with their patients. Healthcare staff spend huge amounts of their time communicating with patients and their families, chasing referrals or coordinating care, which can be a laborious and long-winded process.
“To empower staff to deliver truly integrated care for patients, we need to transform the way they’re able to communicate and give them the means to record all patient information and conversations in one place, so they can work cross-functionally across services to deliver effective and well-informed patient care. Technology should be built alongside frontline staff to support their needs and provide them with software that genuinely improves their day to day work.”
Steve Sawyer, managing director at Access HSC
“On the whole, it is encouraging to read such ambitious plans to support people and communities to live the way they want, with digital health and social care records underpinning more seamless information sharing across the sector.
“However, the plan will only be a success if health and social care are put on an equal footing, with the resources for digital transformation evenly distributed between them. With this in mind, perhaps it is time for digital to feature in Care Quality Commission assessments as a means of incentivising communication and collaboration with the care sector and providing equal opportunities for all.”
Kenny Bloxham, managing director at Healthcare Communications
The Digital Health and Care Plan marks a step in the right direction, with the vision for enabling more personalised care made clear throughout the ambitious proposal. The move to facilitate care from home makes perfect sense, and the emphasis placed on improving the NHS App so that people can view and manage hospital appointments, have virtual consultations, and see notifications from their GP, will make a huge impact on patients, who are increasingly keen to take ownership of their health.
“Equally, it will release capacity for clinicians to treat more patients, and I was encouraged by the commitment for patients to be able to complete pre-assessment checks from home across the country by September 2024, which will free up even more of their time.”
Matt Cox, managing director for UK and Ireland at Better
“It’s refreshing to see this Digital Health and Care Plan referred to as a ‘digital revolution’, as that is what is needed if we are to truly capitalise on the momentum of the last two years. I’m looking forward to seeing the investment announced alongside the Plan being used to provide the infrastructure and open platforms to enable transformative data-sharing nationally, regionally and locally.
“I’m pleased to see the Plan state that open standards will be enforced to avoid vendor lock-in and ensure care providers only buy technology that meet the standards for interoperability, usability, safety, security and sustainability. These standards will hopefully provide the strong digital foundations required to achieve the ambition of life-long, joined up care records that provide a complete view of a person’s health. This is vital if we are to sustainably transform health and care for the future.”