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Department for Health publishes ‘Plan for Digital Health and Social Care’

The Department for Health and Social Care has set out its ‘Plan for Digital Health and Social Care’ on 29 June, an ambitious vision for transforming health and care with digital technology. The plan aims to provide patients with swifter and more effective care and enable health systems to save time and money.

Improved access to information and patient-led decision-making through the NHS App and NHS website for personalised treatment is a core objective and workstream laid out in the plan. This includes easier management of hospital appointments, virtual consultations and patients receiving direct notifications from their GP.

Regarding remote monitoring, with boosted technology, a further 500,000 patients could be better supported by March 2023. According to the Government Press Release, “over 280,000 people already used remote monitoring at home and in care homes for long-term conditions in the last year, freeing up hospital beds and saving clinicians’ valuable time.

To further free up clinician time, patients will be able to complete their hospital pre-assessment checks from home across the country by September 2024.

In the Government’s Spending Review, £2 billion was earmarked for the digitisation plans around health and social care. This funding will go towards the roll-out of electronic patients records in the NHS, releasing ‘billions of pounds’ back into the NHS.

More than 28 million people have the NHS App on their smartphones and by March 2023 it will have the below expanded capacity, allowing users to:

  • book COVID-19 vaccines through the app, as well as the NHS website
  • receive NHS notifications and messaging, including reminders and alerts for COVID-19 vaccine booking and prescription readiness
  • start to see notifications and messaging sent from their GP through the NHS App
  • start to view and manage hospital elective care appointments across participating trusts
  • see new information within their GP record by default, with the ability to request retrospective information at their practice
  • access a user profile where they can set and manage contact details and register with a GP practice

Digital skills in the NHS workforce will be bolstered by the plans action-list, including:

  • developing a national digital workforce strategy to bridge the skills gap and ensure the NHS remains an attractive place to work
  • growing the specialist data and tech workforce through graduates, apprentices and experienced hires, creating an additional 10,500 positions
  • embedding digital skills development into university curriculums to support our future and incoming workforce
  • providing a digital learning offer for adult social care staff, such as offering accessible training and online resources.

The “plan for digital health and care sets out an ambitious vision for a future where the NHS puts more power and information at patients’ fingertips, and staff have the tools they need to deliver better and more joined-up services for those who need them”, said Dr Timothy Ferris, National Director of Transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The entire Plan can be read here on the Government website.

Natalie Creaney