NHS digitisation to get an extra £3.4bn

The Spring Budget 2024 included the Chancellor’s big announcement on the public services productivity review backed by £3.4bn of funding. It is intended to support investment in NHS technological and digital transformation, including upgrading MRI scanners and supporting the roll out of electronic patient records and reduce time spent by frontline staff on administrative tasks. This boost to capital investment won’t arrive until 2025/26 – and not until after the General Election, and potentially a new government.

We’re already seeing the benefits to patient care through the rollout of newer technologies whether it’s recovering at home using virtual ward platforms to accessing prescriptions using the NHS app. The extra investment in technology means that the NHS can now commit to the roll out of existing technology transformations. They include:

  • Making the NHS App the single front door through which patients can access NHS services and manage their care
  • Digitally-enabled prevention and early intervention services
  • Delivering a radically improved online experience for patients
  • Pilots to test the ability of Artificial Intelligence to automate back-office functions
  • Providing all NHS staff with digital passports and access to a new NHS Staff App
  • An acceleration of the Federated Data Platform
  • Upgrading IT systems, scaling up existing use of AI and ensuring all NHS staff are equipped with modern computing technology
  • Ensuring all NHS Trusts have Electronic Patient Records (EPRs) by March 2026
  • Upgrading over one hundred MRI scanners with AI
  • Digitising transfers of care

NHS leaders have given a cautious welcome to the extra funding with NHS Providers’ chief executive, Sir Julian Hartley commenting that it has “the potential to transform healthcare for patients, improve access to services and free up staff time” and “ramp up NHS productivity”.

But where should NHS providers and Integrated Care boards look to invest the extra money when it arrives?

Should they look to channel the new funding into newer technologies like AI? Jessica Morley, Health Data Academic is clear about where she’d put her money: fixing the core digital IT infrastructure and bringing the whole system up to a consistent level. And we would agree.

Shouldn’t there also be investment in making existing IT systems or information easier to access and use? Speaking to a nursing friend, he commented that logging into systems can be very stressful in a time critical environment. An alternative could be using face recognition to access clinical systems or a QR code that could be accessed via an app on a mobile phone that released a security code similar to the two stage authentication process. He also suggested using patient QR codes that are GDPR compliant from NHS devices with patients details on home notes etc. He works in Resus and explained that they have many unconscious patients admitted who they struggle to treat because they know nothing about their medical history, and a card that has a QR linked photo for confirmation would make their life much easier.  

As for EPRs, we are working with several NHS Trusts to ensure they are available everywhere and by March 2025. But we would advocate funding more skilled digital and transformation teams and improving and streamlining the approval processes as business-critical areas to support EPR delivery. The success of any new EPR whether it’s a Trust’s first, second or even third generation EPR it is always going to be contingent on ongoing optimisation underpinned by an empowered digital team.

And while the additional investment in NHS technology is to be welcomed we shouldn’t forget there is no extra funding for adult social care. The Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England are leading the NHS Transformation Directorate’s Digitising Social Care programme which is working towards ensuring that 80% of CQC registered providers are using electronic care planning solutions (digital social care records) by March 2024. It is widely recognised that DSCR will play an important role in joining up care across social care and the NHS freeing up time spent by care staff on administrative tasks.

Do get in touch if you need support with the procurement and or implementation of your EPR system or any other technology. We can support on a range of transformational projects, please head to our webpage to find out more: NHS Digital Transformation.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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