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Lord Carter is right to demand greater digital maturity & integration in the NHS

techUK's response to Lord Carter's review of productivity in NHS hospitals.

Recently Lord Carter of Coles published his report on ‘Operational productivity and performance in English NHS acute hospitals: Unwarranted variations’.

In response to the recent report, Natalie Bateman, Head of Health and Social Care at techUK said,

“Lord Carter is right to highlight the limited digital maturity and significant variation in the deployment of information systems across NHS Acute Trusts. Whilst there are some good examples of Trusts embracing technology and reaping the benefits of doing so, there is a greater number of Trusts that aren’t and this needs to be addressed urgently if the ambitions set out in Personalised Health and Care 2020, and the Five Year Forward View are to be achieved.

We therefore, welcome Lord Carter’s recommendation for full integration and use of digital systems and real-time data. It is encouraging to see the report’s recognition that the NHS will not be able to address the £20bn efficiency challenge without widespread adoption and more intelligent use of this type of technology.

The report has rightly identified that some of the biggest barriers to achieving this are the lack of; board-level engagement in decision-making, aligned incentives that encourage collaborative working between health and care professionals, and adequate funding. That said, the money allocated to technology in the Spending Review - which Lord Carter has recommended is partly used to deliver his changes - is unlikely to be adequate given other initiatives, such as introducing free WiFi across the NHS estate, will be utilising this funding as well. There is an urgent need for Government to set out a clear plan for how the £1bn is going to be allocated and over what time period.

At this point and without further detail, we are also cautious of the suggestions of setting standards for the ‘meaningful-use’ for information systems. Whilst this policy has delivered some benefits in the US, it also presents some potential threats to the supplier market in England, in particular the ability for SMEs to become compliant in a timely and cost-effective manner. This will need to be carefully reviewed by NHS Improvement – in collaboration with suppliers – in order to strike the right balance between driving greater adoption of technology and fostering a vibrant supplier market.”


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