‘Disparity in investment over two decades’ has created uneven digital maturity across NHS, minister says

Minister with oversight of health service data and tech says that government plan to invest £2bn in ‘frontline digitisation’ will help deliver a more consistent landscape in the years ahead

Twenty years of uneven investment, both nationally and locally, have created a patchwork in varying levels of “digital maturity” across NHS services, a minister has claimed.

Lord Markham – a junior minister at the Department of Health and Social Care with responsibility for NHS technology and data – recently faced parliamentary questions from Labour peer Baroness Merron about “significant variation in reported usability of the same types of digital technology across different healthcare organisations”.

In response, the minister acknowledged a current inconsistency in the efficacy of technology across the health service. He attributed to this to varying levels of investment going back over a period of 20 years – which the government intends to tackle via funding committed in the Plan for digital health and social care policy paper published last year.

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“We have found that the primary reason for variation in digital maturity is disparity in national and local investment over the past two decades,” Markham said. “We are aiming to address this through the £2bn investment in frontline digitisation [set out in the plan]. Where feasible, we are encouraging systems to explore integrated care system-wide solutions to support integrated care. As part of our frontline digitisation support offer, we are also working to build an England-wide community to share lessons learnt, improvements and develop peer-to-peer networks to share best practice.”

The minister said that formal investigations of digital progress to date are currently being undertaken for health and social care providers across England.

“Digital maturity assessments are underway in the What Good Looks Like programme to give health and care organisations a baseline to understand their progress on meeting digitisation standards,” he added. “This will enable more targeted support for those organisations that need it. Digital maturity assessments will be updated yearly to track progress on their journey to achieving what good looks like.”

Sam Trendall

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