Physios must influence Hunt’s £4.2 billion investment in a ‘paperless’ NHS

Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of £4.2 billion to digitise the NHS in England will create opportunities for better patient care, but it’s important that physiotherapists influence how the money is used.

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Dr Carey McClellan: 'Technology has to be on the agenda'.

This is the message from physio Carey McClellan, an advanced practitioner in emergency care.

His comments come as the health secretary announced a mix of new and existing money which includes:

  • £1.8 billion to create a paper-free NHS, allowing health information systems to work together across organisational boundaries, removing paper records
  • £1 billion for infrastructure, cyber security and data consent
  • £750 million to transform out-of-hospital care, including digital primary care, medicines, social care digitalisation and digital urgent and emergency care
  • £400 million to enable the NHS to become digital, including a new website, NHS.uk, apps, free Wi-Fi and telehealth
  • £250 million for data for outcomes and research

Dr McClellan, an app developer with a long-standing interest in technology, told Frontline: ‘We spend a significant amount of time with patients. We actively treat but also empower, educate and support recovery.

‘This provides us with an opportunity to engage with patients to understand how best to use technology, to meet their individual and group needs while improving our processes and using our skills to lead change.’

Meanwhile a report from the Nuffield Trust, Delivering the Benefits of Digital Healthcare, describes a digitised NHS. It puts the patient at the centre, surrounded by patient-facing technologies which give them opportunities to manage their health and engage with healthcare providers.

These technologies include wearable devices, apps, online communities and patient portals. The NHS e-health record is the foundation on which many other tools are built.

The report outlines technologies that provide tools for health care professionals, to support decision making, help manage clinical workloads and access other professionals’ expertise.

And the Nuffield Trust describes an ‘outer circle’ of technologies that support organisations, including tools for business process support, predictive analytics, flow management and e-rostering.

‘The report highlights quite clearly where this needs to start: it is about leadership and having people with the understanding to input into the development of new IT,’ said Dr McClellan.

‘So technology has to be on the agenda at meetings within the physiotherapy profession, but it requires leaders with an understanding of informatics to get into positions where we can help drive this at a national level as well.’

It was not clear where and when opportunities to influence the ‘paperless’ NHS agenda would arise, he said. But he called for physiotherapy staff to be ‘proactive rather than reactive’ in influencing developments.

‘The key is that if you have new technology with old processes you will just get expensive old processes,’ he said.

‘This digital investment is about creating new processes with technology to make the NHS more efficient so we can spend more time with our patients and be more effective.’

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by Gill Hitchcock

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