Policymakers should be spending more time improving patient pathways rather than focusing on digital convergence between hospital systems, TPP CEO Frank Hester said in a keynote speech at Rewired 2023. 

Hester said: “The main transactional load is primary to secondary care – it’s between GPs and hospital, not hospital to hospital,” he said, adding that the current EPR convergence policy is “stupid.” 

Convergence would be better focused on building systems that model the doctor-patient encounter and can be used across GP surgeries, hospitals and social care settings, he said.

He added that the NHS has generally not had good value for money in its IT investments, noting that the health system has often purchased systems with software more focused on billing and administration, rather than on patient records and care. 

The crisis in NHS funding, exemplified by the ongoing wave of industrial action by nurses, junior doctors and paramedics, underscores the need to ensure that digital investments are fit for purpose and make good use of taxpayer money, he added. 

“We’ve got a major problem and yet we’re still spending hundreds of millions of pounds on IT; that sticks in my throat,” he said. Hester observed that trusts had had “unlimited money to spend on IT” until recently, and that some had spent upwards of £400 million on systems of questionable value. 

Uncertainties lie ahead 

The second half of the Integrated Care keynote session focused on the political and economic uncertainties casting a shadow over the health service’s digital agenda.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive for NHS Providers, said 12 months of political upheaval at national level and the backdrop of industrial action is providing an “interesting” backdrop to the discussions at Rewired, with significant challenges across both workforces and finance. 

She added: “There have been changes in the digital agenda and movement, but things aren’t going as fast as we would like them to go.”

With the Chancellor of the Exchequer due to present his budget on Wednesday, an announcement on a long-term workforce plan with numbers and funding commitments is “absolutely critical” she said.

Taking place on March 14-15 at the Business Design Centre in London, Digital Health Rewired 2023 is a conference and exhibition that brings together all parts of the digital health community to celebrate the best of digital, data and innovation in health and care.

Health and care professionals will be able to network, collaborate and learn in person during two days of educational conference sessions, exhibitions, and meetings, all focused on sharing best practice and innovation.