By Helen Mooney on 16 July 2019
NHS hospitals to be fully digital by 2024
All providers of NHS secondary care – including hospitals – must be fully digitised by 2024, under new detailed plans to support roll-out of the new NHS Long Term Plan recently published by the Government.
The new ‘implementation framework’ for the NHS Plan – published earlier this year – has landed. It sets out a call to action for healthcare systems to develop a “comprehensive digital strategy and investment plan” that describes how digital technology will underpin their local system’s wider transformation plans over the next five years.
The NHS must show how and when each organisation will achieve a defined minimum level of digital maturity. But crucially it doesn’t say yet what this minimum level will be.
NHS STPs will also need to show how they will ensure technology vendors and platforms are complying with national standards like the Health Systems Support Framework.
The newly formed NHSX has been given the task of making sure the NHS has clear guidance and support to accelerate progress in this area, while also calling on ‘‘local systems to drive forward digitisation focussed on user need and engage staff and patients in its development”.
Published jointly by NHS England and NHS Improvement, the new framework details local and national priorities and includes a series of must-dos for the NHS. Most importantly, it also sets out a future in which local healthcare leaders are once again given greater freedom to pursue their own paths.
Understanding the context
The priorities defined in the new framework are split between seven “critical foundations” on which the NHS must deliver, based on NHS England’s nationally “defined training and requirements”, as well as a set of wider goals. For the latter, those delivering healthcare at a local level will be given the freedom to craft their own vision for how services are delivered.
NHS England says the “critical foundations” are a “prerequisite” for NHS improvement so it can deliver a “new service model for 21st century care”.
The foundations are:
- ‘Out-of-hospital care’ and integrated community-based care;
- Emergency hospital services and urgent care;
- Personalised care;
- Digitised primary and outpatient care;
- Cancer outcomes;
- Mental health services;
- Reduced waiting lists for elective care.
And what should the local plans look like?
NHS England wants them to be:
- Clinically led with systems that pick out and support senior clinicians to lead on implementation of the LTP commitments;
- Locally owned – with closer involvement between the NHS, local government and the voluntary sector;
- Realistic in their workforce planning;
- Financially balanced;
- Delivering on all of the LTP commitments and national access standards including how performance for cancer treatment, A&E and a reduction in waiting times for elective care will be improved;
- Based on local need;
- Considering the best ways to reduce local health inequalities and unwarranted variation;
- Focussing on prevention;
- Driving local innovation.
Publication of the new framework will no doubt set off a flurry of activity this summer. Local systems have been asked to start laying out draft versions of their five-year plans by mid-September and submit final versions in November.
These will then be published by the government as part of a national implementation plan which will set out key milestones.
For more detail on how new policy priorities are being communicated and delivered, we recommend keeping an eye on coverage in the HSJ, starting with this article and signing up to The Kings Fund policy and digital newsletters.