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CCGs free to choose own tech for new NHS digital systems

Matt Hancock launches tech vision to ‘build most advanced health and care system in the world’

Louise Prime

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and trusts will be free to choose any modern computers and operating systems that meet their needs under the health and social care secretary’s vision for digital, data and technology in health care. As he launched The Future of Healthcare, Matt Hancock called yesterday for an end to “the illusion that health and care technology needs to be special” and for a radical new approach to technology across the system with open standards, secure identity and interoperability.

He pointed out that the NHS’s technology landscape is currently varied and diverse, and interoperability is poor. He said this increases costs because it is not taking advantage of economies of scale; has patient safety implications and increases errors; introduces delays in the transmission of data from one system to another; and slows the digitisation of those parts of the system still very poorly served by technology.

He called for a radical new approach to technology across the system and demanded a stop to the narrative that it’s “too difficult to do it right in health and care”. He said the ambition should be for the NHS and social care sector to use the best technology available, with the ‘huge’ potential of cutting-edge technologies to support preventative, predictive and personalised care.

But, he said, to reach that potential, the digital architecture of the health and care system must first be got right – with open standards, secure identity and interoperability so that systems talk to each other and that the right data gets to the right place at the right time.

Matt Hancock argued that all of the NHS’s digital services should be available in the browser, according to open web standards, and explained his reasons. He said this would:

  • release all users – and their trusts, CCGs or any other administrative grouping – to choose any modern computers and operating systems that meet their needs
  • open the ecosystem to some of the world’s best user experience designers
  • do not require users to pay a software provider or app store to use the services essential to their health and care or their jobs
  • move to a mobile-first approach and make the same digital services easily accessible from mobile phones, tablets, laptops and assistive technologies such as screen readers.
  • get the benefit of the continual security and functionality improvements that come with the ‘evergreen’ ecosystem of modern browsers and web technologies.
He also called for modular IT systems, in which any module can be easily switched out, to create a competitive market where providers are rewarded for quality. And, he said, it was essential to make sure patients and people who use care services have confidence that their data is held securely and used appropriately.

He said: “The tech revolution is coming to the NHS. These robust standards will ensure that every part of the NHS can use the best technology to improve patient safety, reduce delays and speed up appointments.

“A modern technical architecture for the health and care service has huge potential to deliver better services and to unlock our innovations. We want this approach to empower the country’s best innovators – inside and outside the NHS – and we want to hear from staff, experts and suppliers to ensure our standards will deliver the most advanced health and care service in the world.”

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