Wales invests £3m to improve access to digital health services


The Welsh health secretary has announced a £3 million investment to help improve staff and patient access to technology.

Vaughan Gething said the money would form part of the new, three-year Digital Inclusion and Health programme, which will help staff and patients engage with technology as well as access and manage their medical information online.

Speaking at the Digital Health and Care Conference in Cardiff earlier this month, Gething said: “Having the skills and motivation to access digital health services can help people better manage their conditions, whilst helping to reduce the burden on under pressure NHS services.

“The National Survey for Wales 2017-18 showed that 60% of people in Wales aged 75 and over and 26% of disabled people are digitally excluded.

“These people are also more likely to access health and social care services than the rest of the population. It is vital we improve their ability to access digital services.”

The Leader of the House with responsibility for digital, Julie James, added that the programme would be introduced in July 2019.

The news follows a report by the National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee, which heavily criticised NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) for its focus on running “outdated” IT systems.

Committee chair Nick Ramsay said the inquiry “raised serious questions about the competence, capability and capacity across the health system to deliver a digital transformation” across the Welsh health system.

In response, Andrew Griffiths, CIO and director at NWIS, said “a number of changes are already underway to improve the national IT platform and strengthen resilience” in Wales.

He added: “I would like to emphasise that we have made significant digital progress over the past decade and Wales is the first nation where test results and clinical notes are available wherever the patient receives care – creating a seamless patient record. A big achievement with a massive impact on the way care is delivered.

“However, what is clear from the review is that continuing and adequate investment in IT is essential to manage both existing services and to develop new modern applications.

“I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the skills, competency and dedication of our informatics workforce, which is vital to maintain existing infrastructure and to advance the use of healthtech in NHS Wales.

“We know that modern tech is vital to deliver health and care now and in the future and we look forwarding to working on improvements with our partners in health boards and trusts.”

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