Digitally supported care needs to be ‘the norm’, NHSI says


A culture where digitally supported care “is the norm” is needed to better support clinicians and patients, according to a new report.

The NHS Interim People Plan found genomics, artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological developments will “significantly influence” how care in delivered in the future.

But the NHS workforce needs to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to keep up with scientific and technological advances.

The plan, published by NHS Improvement, sets out the health service’s vision for people who work within the NHS to enable them to deliver the Long Term Plan, published in January.

To deliver the plan the NHS needs to “transform” the way the entire staff work together, including using technology to “enable our people to work to their full potential” as routine tasks are automated.

In order for boards to understand the importance of data and technology in delivering care a “high-quality supply” of digital leaders, including chief clinical information officers, chief information officers and chief nursing information officers, are needed.

To achieve this, the NHS must become a destination employer for technologists, informaticians, data scientists and those with similar skillsets, through working with industry to share and develop specialist resources.

But while technology is needed, “we must ensure that we don’t widen the inequalities experienced by our communities” through digital services.

“Technology must be user-centred, built around patients, including those who self-manage their own conditions, with the service user at the heart of what we do,” the report said.

Key actions in 2019/20 for embedding technology outlined in the Interim People Plan:

    • Deliver intensive training for boards and senior leaders to build tech and data awareness and capability
    • Start to develop a library of education, learning, knowledge and best practice resources to support the current workforce in expanding their digital skills
    • Work to develop and integrate digital education and learning resources into academic and professional curricula
    • Building on the Topol Review, carry out an audit to assess and plan for future digital roles and skills required
    • Set out plans for an expanded NHS Digital Academy to develop digital leadership capability
    • Establish the Topol Programme for Digital Fellowships in Healthcare
    • Ongoing roll-out of education and training interventions and multiprofessional workforce development programmes to support the NHS Genomic Medicine Service

Sir David Behan, chair of Health Education England, said: “We need to ensure all NHS staff can develop the knowledge and skills they need to work differently in the 21st century NHS.

“Digital technology, genomics and the integration of health and care are rapidly changing what’s required of our staff and we must support them to take advantages of these innovations.”

Releasing time to care

Proper implementation of digital technology will also give clinicians the “gift of time”, according to the plan.

A ‘releasing time to care’ programme is to be established to draw together innovation and good practice to free up clinician’s time. It will include “consistent and effective” use of electronic rostering and electronic job planning systems.

Complete roll-out of these systems is due by 2021, according to the plan, so all clinical staff have access to e-rostering systems and are able to agree rotas at least six weeks in advance.

Primary care networks will also be given support for e-rostering and e-job planning.

Actions announced in the Long Term Plan including increasing the use of digital outpatient appointments; use of new technology to provide real-time tracking of hospital beds and equipment; specialist tele-consultations; use of clinical speech recognition; and exploring new uses of technology such as automated image interpretation, will be used to promote wider changes to ways of working efficiently.

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