Review highlights digital training needs for NHS staff

Author: Ingrid Torjesen

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An independent report produced for Health Education England has highlighted the skills gap faced by NHS staff in fully utilising innovative technologies such as genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence and robotics to NHS improve services.

The report,* commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and led by cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine researcher Dr Eric Topol, outlines the education and training that will be required for NHS staff in order to deliver the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan through greater use of technology.

The report notes that within 20 years times, 90% of all jobs in the NHS will require some element of digital ability and says that all NHS organisation should invest in their existing workforce to get them up to speed on technological advancements.

It recommends that Health Education England establishes a new “NHS digital education programme” to oversee the implementation of a national digital education strategy.

“There is a need to develop educational resources to educate and train healthcare professionals in: health data provenance, curation, integration and governance; the ethics of AI and autonomous systems/tools; and the critical appraisal and statistical interpretation of AI and robotics technologies (AIR2),” Topol said. “Joint learning programmes involving components from computer science, robotics and engineering should be made available to healthcare students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. These courses could be designed in collaboration with university computer science and engineering departments, and hosted online. New apprenticeship and Masters schemes relevant to data science, AI and robotics in healthcare should also be developed.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, welcomed “the thoughtful analysis”.

“Clearly there is a lot of work ahead for employers to work with our teams and our patients to design, implement and embed new technologies to support the delivery of care to our communities,” he said.

“The deployment of technology will of course require significant resource and investment and we would repeat that this needs to be properly funded by government and not left to already stretched individual NHS trusts to dig even deeper to fund.”


* The Topol Review. Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future. Health Education England, February 2019.

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