NHS cancer and mental health services first to get digital makeover

Author: Caroline White

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NHS cancer and mental health services will be among the first to get a digital makeover, with digital and data specialists from the recently established NHSX set to team up with NHS England’s relevant national policy teams to use technology to boost the patient experience.

The aim is to improve access to services through smartphones; give clinicians access to the relevant diagnostic information about a patient; and make it easier to collect and use health data which can benefit research and patients.

If this approach is successful, it will be rolled out more widely across the NHS.

From July, NHSX, the new joint organisation for digital, data and technology, will mandate the use of internationally recognised technology and data standards across the NHS to ensure all systems can talk to each other.

NHSX will be recruiting a chief technology officer to help solve some of the biggest challenges in health and care.

Matthew Gould has been named CEO of NHSX and will join the organisation in the summer. He is currently the director general for Digital and Media at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Matthew will have strategic responsibility for setting the national direction on technology across health and social care organisations. He will be accountable to the Health and Social Care Secretary and chief executive of NHS England.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “NHSX will harness the full potential of technology to improve patient experience and make our NHS the very best it can be.”

He added: “NHSX is one of the most exciting things happening in the UK. It’s cutting edge, it’s mission driven and it’s about harnessing the best. This is just the beginning of the tech revolution, building on our NHS Long Term Plan to create leading health and care service – for us all.”

NHSX CEO, Matthew Gould, added: “Our single goal will be to improve the care that everyone in the country gets by making sure that both staff and patients have the technology they need.

“I will know I have succeeded if in two years we have reduced the crazy amount of time that clinicians spend inputting and accessing patient information, if we have given patients the tools so they can access information and services directly from their phones, and if we have started to build a system in which patient information can be securely accessed from wherever it is needed, ensuring safer and better care as patients move around the system, and saving patients from having to tell every doctor and nurse their story over and over again.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the Secretary of State deserved credit for championing this issue when so much focus is elsewhere.

“The ambition that new NHS technology will make sure that different systems can talk to each other has to be the right one. The support for the national cancer and mental health teams is also really welcome,” he said.

But he cautioned: “But creating yet another arms-length body at the centre, however innovative, will not in itself drive the technological revolution we all want to see. And the question must be asked why is NHS Digital not taking this forward?

“More importantly, if NHSX is to succeed it needs to draw on the expertise within the service and harness the fantastic work already underway as well as showing what is possible.”

He went on: “It is vital that we strike the right balance between support and control. The lessons from the past suggest that fewer diktats and more collaboration from the centre will bring about more effective change more quickly.”

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