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Hancock reveals digital future of NHS

This includes creating a “consistent data platform” and implementing Shared Care Records across NHS

Matt Hancock on the move

Health secretary Matt Hancock has outlined his vision for the digital future of the NHS that operates across a "consistent data platform".

Speaking at the Digital Health Rewired virtual festival, Hancock announced he wants to explore whether a data platform can be created that separates the data layer from the application layer.

This would mean "providers can offer the application software, but the data will be stored separately and securely in the cloud and then we have a consistent data platform across the NHS".

He said it should be made easier to write applications or create services that interact with data from different NHS organisations.

Hancock also said that Shared Care Records will be put in place by September this year, where every local system will have at least a basic version implemented.

“This will mean patients only need to give their details once, and they’ll be captured in a local record that can be safely seen by those who are caring for them,” he said.

There was also an emphasis on the need to “connect the system so data flows appropriately and freely, and we get the intrinsic benefits that high quality data and interoperability can provide.”

He admitted that bringing together the data that usually would have only existed in silos was fundamental to the NHS’s COVID response. He also recognised the need to fill gaps in interoperability where they exist, “ especially the link to social care and responsibilities of the NHS.”

He said that in many ways every day of the last year has “been a session of digital transformation because of this shared experience of fighting the virus, and the vital role technology has played in response.”

The secretary did admit that half of the clinicians questioned in a BMA survey said they had been hampered by issues like internet speed and infrastructure when trying to access online services, and he underlined the need to “get the infrastructure in place.”

It was also revealed that another 32 NHS trusts will be joining the Digital Aspirant programme, which will help boost their digital infrastructure through funding.

“Seven trusts will get up to £6 million over the next 3 years, and the rest will get seed funding to start creating their plans,” he outlined.

Earlier this week it emerged that the digital transformation of the NHS needed “further work” and that the technological innovations implemented during the pandemic need to be improved before being “locked-in.” 

In November last year, the health department was blasted for its track record of failed NHS digital projects, with a parliamentary committee warning that there was a need for it to “move on” from its decades-long legacy of “failed attempts” at digital transformation.

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