Secretary of state warns that pumping money in alone is not enough to stop IT systems from costing lives
The NHS will receive an additional £200m fund for trusts to bid for in order to create additional global digital exemplars, the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, said today at NHS Expo in Manchester.
Hancock explained that the current IT systems are not fit for the future, and that both major investment and an overhaul of services is required in order to enable the NHS to cope with increasing demand.
“We are proposing to increase the NHS budget by £20bn a year, to guarantee the NHS for the long term. But money alone is not enough. We need to make the most of that money,” he said.
“Yet our hospitals operate dozens of systems each, that don’t talk to each other. GPs, social care, pharmacies and community care are on different systems. Systems crashing is a regular occurrence. The social care system is not at all integrated, when its integration is vital,” he added.
In an article for The Telegraph, he suggested that the NHS’s stuttering IT systems were costing lives, using the case of 13-year-old Tamara Hill as an example of the NHS’s obsolete IT. She tragically died of a fatal asthma attack, despite being seen by 47 different medical professionals.
“Linking the records of her visits and making them available for the clinicians she saw could have allowed her doctors to better understand her medical history, to treat her differently and perhaps prevent her death,” he wrote.
However, despite this, Hancock said he believed the NHS infrastructure was moving in the right direction – and that the NHS has learnt about delivering cutting edge technology in very complicated settings with big legacy systems.
To help the NHS further, the secretary of state announced that more than £200m would be invested to transform a group of NHS trusts into internationally-recognised centres for technology and digital innovation. The funding would support GDEs in acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts in England, with the hope that these would inspire others to innovate and produce services of a similar standard. There are currently 16 acute GDEs, seven mental health GDEs and three ambulance GDEs.
In addition to the £200m in funding, Hancock is announced that the NHS App, which is scheduled for national rollout in December, is set to be piloted in five areas across England; in Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire.
Patients in those areas will be able to download a beta version of the app from October, and will be able to book GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, view their medical record, access 111 online for urgent medical queries, set data-sharing preferences, record organ donation preferences and set end of life care preferences.
The speech coincided with a report from pharmaceutical company Roche which claimed that 85% of adults welcomed the NHS App, 89% of adults were comfortable sharing their health data, with the NHS and 90% of adults would be comfortable with the NHS analysing their health data for better diagnosis and personalised treatment.