Government launches tech vision to build world’s most advanced health and care system

Outdated and obstructive NHS IT systems will become a thing of the past, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said as he launched his “tech vision” in The Future of Healthcare, and as he later spoke at an event hosted by DigitalHealth.London founding partner Health Innovation Network.

This vision transforms NHS technology to allow appropriate access to real-time data. This will underpin the digital services and data innovations needed. It also outlines plans to introduce minimum technical standards that digital services and IT systems in the NHS will have to meet. Having these open standards in place means systems will be able to talk to each other securely and ensure they are upgradable.

Any system that fails to meet these standards will be phased out. The government will look to end contracts with providers who do not understand these principles for the health and care sector.

Outside those standards, all trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will have freedom to buy what they need. This should encourage competition on user experience and better tools for everyone.

The changes will secure a brighter future for the health and social care system and are central to unlocking the potential of innovative technologies to support care.

The government wants to hear from staff, technology experts and suppliers to make sure the standards are the best choices for our users and can help improve outcomes in every area of the health and care system.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

The tech revolution is coming to the NHS. These robust standards will ensure that every part of the NHS can use the best technology to improve patient safety, reduce delays and speed up appointments.

A modern technical architecture for the health and care service has huge potential to deliver better services and to unlock our innovations. We want this approach to empower the country’s best innovators – inside and outside the NHS – and we want to hear from staff, experts and suppliers to ensure our standards will deliver the most advanced health and care service in the world.

Dr Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care, NHS England, said:

Investing in excellent digital systems means patients can access the best and safest treatment pathways available, as swiftly as possible at the best value for taxpayers.

This, combined with our plan to use technology to improve existing treatments and join up information across the NHS, will set the health service in England on track to be the world-leader in innovative health care.

Sarah Wilkinson, Chief Executive at NHS Digital, said:

Greater standardisation of data, infrastructure, platforms and APIs will create a health and care system that is more joined-up, and as a result safer and more efficient. Connected systems ensure that clinicians have immediate access to all relevant and appropriate patient data from all care providers and settings, and ensure that data is communicated between systems with absolute fidelity, eliminating misinformation and misunderstandings. In addition, we will increasingly be able to provide citizens and patients with direct and immediate access to their medical records.

Everyone understands the value of this work but progress in recent years has been limited. Today, responding to a direct challenge from the Secretary of State to transform the fortunes of this work, we are injecting a new level of energy and commitment. NHS Digital is providing a new clear framework to simplify the guidance on those standards that matter most. We are going to build the detailed guidance on these standards in partnership with technologists across the system and with industry partners.

We recognise that the implementation journey is complex. Through consultation we will seek to understand in detail what the challenges are for different parties and throughout implementation we will focus on providing clear specifications, detailed guidance and extensive support. Our goal is to ensure successful implementation through engagement and facilitation, ensuring that changes that are mandated are reasonable and achievable.

This work matters too much for any of us to shy away from the challenge.