Multi-million pound package to achieve NHS digital excellence

Jeremy Hunt announces £10m moneypot as 12 'exemplar' NHS trusts lead the way in digital healthcare revolution

New plans to fast track digital excellence and improve the IT skills of the NHS workforce have been announced by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as part of plans to expand the use of technology across the NHS.

Digitisation is as much about people as it is technology, and that this is a real opportunity to improve patient care for the long term

Responding to a review of NHS technology conducted by renowned US clinician, Bob Wachter, Hunt will establish 12 new global exemplars to pioneer best practice and a new academy dedicated to training NHS staff in digital skills.

As global exemplars, the 12 NHS organisations will receive up to £10m and be expected to deliver pioneering approaches to digital services, helping others in the NHS to learn from their experiences.

These trusts will be partnered with an international organisation of their choice to take full advantage of their expertise.

Alongside investment in technology and infrastructure, the funding will be used to improve training for staff and will also encourage a new generation of chief clinical information officers to drive forward advances in digital technology.

Meanwhile, universities will be invited to host the new NHS digital academy, which will help train NHS professionals in the key skills they will need to deliver next-generation digital healthcare.

Hunt said: “Bob Wachter’s excellent review made it clear that digitisation is as much about people as it is technology, and that this is a real opportunity to improve patient care for the long term.

We want to fast track existing digital excellence, as well as nurture new skills and expertise that we will need to deliver a new breed of digitised services

“We want to fast track existing digital excellence, as well as nurture new skills and expertise that we will need to deliver a new breed of digitised services.

“This means on the one hand giving pioneering NHS organisations the financial backing to unleash their full potential, while also making sure that we can build a digitally-confident workforce across the whole NHS.

The global exemplar trusts will be:

  • City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
  • Luton & Dunstable University Hospital NHS Trust
  • West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Further funding will be available for another 20 trusts to become national exemplars, receiving an intensive programme of support from the new NHS digital academy, and up to £5m each to improve how digital technology is used across their organisation.

New digital services for patients will enable them to register with a GP, access healthcare records, and get medical advice via their tablet or smartphone all in one place.

The services, which will be available from the end of next year, are intended to make the NHS easier to use for the increasing numbers of people using smartphones and other mobile devices to access public services.

Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester, the Health Secretary outlined the measures for patients, including:

  • The expansion of the existing NHS 111 non-emergency phone line service to include a new online ‘triage’ service for less-serious health problems. This will enable patients to enter their symptoms online and get tailored advice or a call back from a healthcare professional according to their needs. The service is being developed with leading clinicians and then piloted to ensure the best patient outcomes
  • NHS-approved health apps to guide patient choice. NHS England will launch a library of NHS assessed apps, as well as advising on other wearable devices, to ensure people can select reputable and effective products to monitor and improve their health
  • A relaunch of the NHS Choices website to improve the range of services. It will be relaunched as NHS.UK with a fuller range of online patient services, including the ability to register with a GP, see and book appointments, and order and track prescriptions
  • Instant access to personal health records online. Inspired by the ‘blue button’ app in the US, the new NHS.UK site will also enable patients to securely download their personal health records, giving them instant access to important healthcare information, such as prescriptions and test results
  • More interactive, local information about the performance of health services. From this week the MyNHS website will give better data on how NHS services are performing across dementia, diabetes and learning disability services. Maternity, cancer and mental health data will follow later this year. In future, the revamped site will also include maps, graphs and tools so that patients can see how the performance of their local services has changed over time

Commenting on the announcement, NHS Digital chief executive, Andy Williams, said: “Our purpose at NHS Digital is to harness information and technology to deliver better health and care. That’s why I welcome the Secretary of State’s announcements today and look forward to leading the delivery of better digital services for the NHS and in social care.

I believe we have only just begun to achieve the true transformational change and deliver the real benefits that digital technologies can bring to doctors, nurses, social workers, patients and the public

“I am excited by the agenda outlined today and believe we have only just begun to achieve the true transformational change and deliver the real benefits that digital technologies can bring to doctors, nurses, social workers, patients and the public.

Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust was chosen as one of the exemplars in recognition of its digital maturity and innovative digital health initiatives.

As part of the funding stream, the organisation, which runs Musgrove Park Hospital, will be given the financial backing and support to fast track its plans to use technology to help staff achieve higher efficiencies, enable better organisational workflows, and deliver better patient care.

This includes ensuring that all systems across Somerset are interfaced so that clinicians and healthcare professionals across the community have information and data at their fingertips.

Patients will also be able to view and add to their patient record, seeing hospital test results, for example, at the touch of a button.

Dr Sam Barrell, chief executive at the trust, said: “We are thrilled to have been chosen as it means we can really press ahead with bringing our NHS technology into the digital age.

“This work is ultimately about improving patient care and improving the patient experience, making healthcare as accessible as everything else that people do online in their everyday lives.”

This work is ultimately about improving patient care and improving the patient experience, making healthcare as accessible as everything else that people do online in their everyday lives

Less than 12 months ago the trust deployed openMAXIMS, an open source electronic patient record (EPR) system in A&E, theatres, outpatient department and across the hospital’s 30 wards. It was the trust’s first step in a much-bigger programme to become paperlite by 2018 and deliver a fully-interoperable digital healthcare community in Somerset.

At the forefront of the trust’s digital roadmap in the next two years are open standards, shared pathways of care, reciprocal views and data sharing, e-Prescribing, data analytics, and the use of mobile devices and apps. This will ensure clinicians have real-time access to accurate information wherever and whenever they need, and provides the tools to empower patients to take control over their healthcare.

The investment has also been welcomed by IT industry leaders. Shane Tickell, chief executive of IMS MAXIMS, said: “This is a significant milestone for the NHS.

“The visionary approach of trusts such as Taunton and Somerset to digital transformation has proven the value of an open source hospital system in regards to delivering better people productivity, improved patient outcomes and financial sustainability. And the recognition from the Government sends a clear signal about the important role this approach has to play in enabling the NHS to become digitally world class.

“The financial investment provided by the Digital Exemplar Programme over the next two years will enable trusts to reach their optimum digital capabilities, including deploying exciting software advancements such as medicine management, and data sharing and analytics. It also puts them on course to deploy software that achieves the long-term goal of personalised medicine; predicting and preventing rather than reacting and treating patients.”

Tony Pickering, professional services director at Ricoh UK, added: “Providing patients with instant access to healthcare records through approved apps and wearables is a positive step towards a paperless NHS.”

But he warned: “This initiative must be supported by a wider strategy designed to improve the management of health records, safely and securely.

“Accelerating the digitisation of paper-based records, designing improved sharing processes and new ways of working should all be top of the health secretary’s ‘to-do’ list.”

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