A report by an independent expert panel, which includes submissions from the CSP, has concluded that the government is making inadequate progress on a series of vital commitments it made to digitise the NHS in England.
In 2022, the government published a policy paper which stated that the digitisation of health and social care was essential, in order to deliver the promise of improved and better integrated health and social care service.
The commitments made by the government included:
- the delivery of integrated health and care records
- the roll-out of the NHS app
- ensuring that the workforce possessed necessary digital skills
The independent expert panel, which was established by the Health and Social Care Committee, evaluated these and other commitments in healthcare policy and have produced a new report that rates the government’s overall progress to implement the digitize the NHS as ‘inadequate’.
The panel found that key government commitments on workforce and the use of patient information were either not met or were not on track to be met.
In addition, they found that overall progress towards improving the digital capabilities of the NHS was too slow, and often lacked support and funding.
And the report concludes that plans to digitise the NHS will not succeed without an effective workforce strategy to train, recruit and retain sufficient specialised digital staff.
CSP highlights chronic underfunding
The CSP took part in stakeholder focus groups with the expert panel, where we were represented by physiotherapist Anna Rubio, clinical transformation workstream lead for the NHS Frimley (ICS) Digital Team.
We also made several written submissions that are including in the report, highlighting how the government has failed to fully meet many of its commitments.
For instance, the government had previously pledged that:
‘Through the Data for Research and Development programme we will invest up to £200 million to transform access to and linkage of NHS health and genomic data sets for data-driven innovation and inclusive clinical trials, whose results will be critical to ensuring public confidence in data access for research and innovation purposes.’
However, the report states that:
‘The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy told us that there is a need for greater and more sustained resourcing across systems, training, and workforce in order to deliver the data capability desired to support healthcare and achieve this commitment...
At present NHS trusts chronically underfund their IT even though there are evidential benefits to be found in technology, it is regularly overlooked for funding
‘There are a number of examples where funding is not recurrent which is just not sustainable in digital health. Funding must be recurrent and secured over a long period if it is to attract industry.’
NHS digitisation essential for patients
Professor Dame Jane Dacre, chair of the Expert Panel, said: ‘What is particularly disappointing is that the government recognises that the digitisation of the NHS is essential to bring about real benefits to patients, for example by helping them to monitor and manage long-term health conditions independently.
‘Yet time and again, promises have been made but not delivered, hampering wider progress. For example, using data sharing to improve research and planning, which we’ve rated as inadequate.
‘However, worryingly, we have seen no clear plan for how the Government will address public and provider concerns regarding sharing personal data, which is crucial to address in order for this to be successful.’
Pockets of innovation
Euan McComiskie, CSP heath informatics lead, said: ‘Where used well, digital has the potential to be part of solutions to some of the multitude of challenges facing our members. However, this report shows that the government is not making adequate process on digitising the NHS.
There are pockets of innovative practice all over the country, but overall the progress is not good enough
'Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales also have ambitions to digitise services, with progress being made, but this report does not include those services.’
He added that the Physiotherapy Health informatics Strategy (PHIS) provides valuable information about how technology can play a part in delivering high-quality physiotherapy services.
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