NHS England (NHSE) has pledged to use lessons from the pandemic to level up digital maturity over the next year.
In the 2022/2023 priorities and operations planning guidance it sets out plans to “rapidly and consistently adopt new models of care that exploit the full potential of digital technologies”.
This aims to ensure health and care systems have a core level of digitalisation by March 2025 in line with the NHS long term plan.
The planning guidance encourages GPs to promote the NHS app and NHS.UK, with the goal of reaching 60% registration by March 2023.
It is planned for all patients to be able to access digital-first primary care online by 2023/4 with the ambition for the NHS e-referral system to become the health sector triage, referral and booking system by 2025.
A key priority is ensuring providers of community health services, including independent providers commissioned by integrated care systems (ICSs), can access local shared care records in 2022/3, to enable urgent care response and virtual wards.
Meanwhile in secondary care, a key priority is developing digitally connected imaging capacities and ensuring sites have a minimum of two CT scanners.
Costed three-year digital investment plans are due to be finalised by June 2022 in line with the What Good Looks Like (WGLL) framework. This will include provisions for cybersecurity, steps to support digital inclusion, purchasing and deployment of digital capacities such as electronic patients records (EPRs) and considering how digital services can meet the NHS ‘net zero’ agenda.
Capital will be available to systems for three years from 2022/3 to support digitalisation of acute, mental health, ambulance and community services. In terms of funding, £250 million will initially be allocated, and will be directed towards services and settings that are least digitally mature.
Also up to £200 million will be made available to further develop virtual wards, which utilise remote monitoring technology to treat patients at home who would otherwise need hospital treatment.
WHY IT MATTERS
Digital technologies has transformed the delivery of care during the COVID-19 crisis, and the NHS is now looking to build on this momentum to help address challenges in health and care, and the task of recovering from the pandemic.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
The NHS is due to receive total capital resources of £23.8 billion in 2022/3 with £2.1 billion allocated for the innovative use of technology and £2.3 billion to fund diagnostic services.
ON THE RECORD
NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Building on the excellent progress seen during 2021/22, this means significantly increasing the number of people we can diagnose, treat and care for in a timely way. This will depend on us doing things differently, accelerating partnership working through ICSs to make the most effective use of the resources available to us across health and social care, and ensure reducing inequalities in access is embedded in our approach.”