The government has unveiled its ambition for the NHS to become “the most advanced health system in the world” through use of the “best innovations in new technology and artificial intelligence”.
Among the plans, announced by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock at the NHS Expo in Manchester, is a pilot scheme allowing patients in Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire to use a test version of a new NHS app offering a suite of online services, such as booking GP appointments.
The app will also give patients access to their medical records and NHS 111, the ability to order repeat prescriptions, and to record preferences for organ donations or end-of-life care.
The government will also stream more than £200 million into to establishing a group of NHS trusts internationally recognised centres for technological and digital innovation.
The funding will support new Global Digital Exemplars in acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts in England to set a gold standard of innovation for other services to follow, Hancock said.
The health secretary also announced the creation of the HealthTech Advisory Board, to be chaired by Dr Ben Goldacre, tasked with highlighting areas in need of change and where best practice isn’t being followed, as well as being an “ideas hub” for how to boost patient outcomes and experience and make the lives of NHS staff easier.
“Our hospitals operate dozens of systems each, that don’t talk to each other. GPs, social care, pharmacies and community care are on different systems. Systems crashing is a regular occurrence. The social care system is not at all integrated, when its integration is vital,” Hancock said.
“The NHS infrastructure is stronger and moving in the right direction. Local pockets of brilliance shine out. The generic technology available outside the NHS is a million times better. And we have learned a huge amount about how to deliver cutting-edge tech in very complicated settings with big legacy systems.
“Now is the moment to put the failures of the past behind us, and set our sights on the NHS being the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology to improve our health, make our lives easier, and make money go further, harnessing the amazing explosion of innovation that the connection of billions of minds through digital technology has brought to this world.”
Nial Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederations, said to date the NHS “has been slow to grab the many advantages of the digital revolution”.
“That has to change, and we all have to accept that it will challenge working practices and those who constantly find reasons why we should not adopt new ways of delivering care.
"We can create a service that is more responsive and adaptable, that will be more efficient and reach more people. As patients, data is our friend not our enemy helping the health service devise better more targeted services. If we have secure systems that talk to each other we can achieve so much more. Genomics and AI will also transform what we do and how we do it.
“Part of this will depend on investment but it will also depend on NHS leaders – managers and clinicians – as well as everyone delivering care to champion this new world,” he stressed.