This year’s Digital Urgent and Emergency Care conference had a celebratory feel to it, with a number of flagship digital programmes reaching key milestones. In particular, NHS 111 online celebrated its one millionth completed user journey, adding to the team’s recent success at the DigitalAgenda Impact Awards, where they were winners in the digital health category.
A digital future for the NHS
The event was opened by Dr Sam Shah, Director of Digital Development at NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHS X, who set the context for a digital future in the NHS and demonstrated that digital access to urgent and emergency care services is being driven passionately from all levels. He spoke in particular of the challenge he had faced only a few years ago, to get the system to consider an online version of the 111 telephone service in order to manage growing demands. Today, that vision is a reality and the notion of ‘omni-channel’ access into urgent and emergency care services was a key theme throughout the day.
Dr Simon Eccles, Chief Clinical Information Officer at NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHS X, spoke passionately about his own experiences of digital healthcare and reinforced his expectations; that clinicians looking after patients in the out of hospital setting, whether that be community, ambulance or other, should have access to the same level of information and digital infrastructure, that he has in the hospital setting. There was also an emphasis on the need for co-produced and accessible care plans to ensure patients were more likely to experience the care they needed, in the setting they preferred.
The emerging role of NHS X
Of particular interest to delegates was the detail shared by various speakers, not least the Chief Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State, Hadley Beeman, about the emerging role of NHS X. The initial areas of focus for NHS X will be to remove the barriers that exist around information sharing, progress work on interoperability, support SMEs to work with the NHS and make the NHS a place that is attractive to digital investment. It will be interesting to see how the role of the Academic Health Science Networks, responsible for the latter two points, will evolve in light of NHS X now looking to act as a bridge between the NHS and industry.
“NHS X will not approve digital spend unless it complies with open standards”
Music to the ears of many SMEs who have struggled to sell their services into the NHS, was the news that as part of the strategy to support tech innovation, the NHS will commit to funding multiple small-scale pilots, create a culture where there is permission to try and fail, and make it easier for spread and adoption of new tech across the NHS. But a clear message was given to all providers of digital solutions, NHSX will not approve digital spend unless the technology complies with open standards. Further policy is yet to emerge, but if this first announcement is anything to go by, it will be straight to the point!