How did we get here? The NHS Digital Pioneer Fellowship Programme

Matthew Grek of DigitalHealth.London on why we need to focus on where we are going.

Many of us believe that digital innovations have the ability to transform health and care. And yet, the NHS continues to be perceived as driving the wrong way down the information superhighway, with spread and adoption at scale of digital innovations continuing to be a major challenge.

On the face of it, there are several major barriers. The first two, lack of resource (time) and lack of money, we have little influence over.

Other barriers, though, we can influence. Skills gaps, fear of failure, risk aversion, communications breakdown and lack of networks or influence all contribute to frustration, attrition and, ultimately, failure. Think Care.Data.

And yet, despite the barriers, we are going digital. Partners across London are successfully implementing digital solutions to manage Atrial Fibrillation. We’re also using smartphones to tackle a looming health crisis with London boroughs tackling type-2 diabetes.

The continuing mission of enterprise in the NHS

Last month DigitalHealth.London hosted the first session of the NHS Digital Pioneer Fellowship. Bringing together 24 enterprising NHS colleagues on a sunny Thursday in London, the programme is developing expertise that will allow the NHS to break-down digital barriers, accelerating:

  • Growth in innovation adoption;
  • Attainment of compelling business cases that drive year on year sustainability;
  • Delivery of Impact

The Fellowship provides clinicians and healthcare professionals that lead digital transformation projects with a unique opportunity to accelerate their knowledge and capability, focussing on skills including influencing, problem-solving and business case development over a 12-month period.

What can we expect from the Fellows?

Well, if session one was anything to go by then hopes are high that the cohort will establish a pan-London network to accelerate the pace of digital transformation, improving the lives of patients.

At the start of the year-long programme we heard from all of the Fellows as they ‘pitched’ their projects to their peers, outlining their aims and ambitions. This was followed by a session on how ‘Design Thinking’ and a person-centred approach supports the delivery of transformation. Action Learning Sets, affording attendees the skills to address complicated issues through collective working, discovering strategies and tactics to overcome them, were then developed and will be utilised throughout the programme.

Technology alone will not transform the NHS

It’s clear that digital projects are not just about implementing new technology.

By developing positive role models for the NHS and beyond, this programme is creating 24 digital champions, facilitators and project leads from a range of backgrounds, specialties and experiences. They’re creating interconnections between people, between organisations, between projects and between barriers. And, going back to design thinking, if we really are beginning to put patients and staff at the centre of the information superhighway and digital transformation, we must begin to focus on where we are going, not just worry about how we got here.

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We’ll be posting regular updates about the programme and the experiences of the individuals on the NHS Digital Pioneer Fellowship Programme. Follow us on Twitter for the latest news, interviews and films.