Health secretary Matt Hancock has unveiled his vision for technology in healthcare, which, he claims, will lay the foundation for a new generation of digital services able to meet the needs of clinicians, patients and managers.
Hancock’s policy paper, The Future of Healthcare, includes plans to introduce minimum technical standards that digital services and IT systems in the NHS will have to meet, to enable secure communication between them and ensure they are upgradable when better technologies become available.
“Any system that fails to meet these standards will be phased out,” and the government “will look to end contracts with providers who do not understand these principles for the health and care sector,” he said.
Outside of these minimum standards, all trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will have the freedom to buy in what they need, which “should encourage competition on user experience and better tools for everyone.”
In an interview with Computer Weekly, Hancock stressed that there would be no new money to help Trusts deliver on this new tech vision, as the new standards are more geared towards governing how existing IT budgets are spent.
“I’ve already announced half a billion pounds worth of funding in the three months I’ve been in the job, so there is funding there,” he told Computer Weekly. “This is about how to spend it to make sure the whole system works better.”
The government is now looking for feedback from staff, technology experts and suppliers to make sure the new standards are relevant and can help to boost outcomes in every area of the health and care system.
“A modern technical architecture for the health and care service has huge potential to deliver better services and to unlock our innovations,” Hancock noted. “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.”
“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,” added Dr Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer for Health and Care, NHS England.