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DHSC sets out digital and data demands of integrated care

Sajid Javid
Image source: GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

Patients should have a digital single care record and integrated care systems (ICS) must develop a minimum level of digital maturity, according to the Government’s wide ranging plan for integrating health and social care.

The requirements are included within the white paper published yesterday by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) - titled Joining up care for people, places and populations, which includes a strong emphasis on the role of digital and data in supporting the integration.

In announcing the publication, DHSC highlighted the importance of patients having a single care record to book appointments, order prescriptions and communicate with care providers, while giving service providers access to relevant patient information. It repeated the often made points that this will ensure patients do not have to repeat themselves and professionals will have the information to make care plans.

It also pointed to the need for integrated systems that allow local authorities understand what a patient needs from social care and NHS bodies to pass on alerts when a patient needs support.

The white paper’s chapter on digital and data says that all but one ICS now has a basic shared care record to support the integration of care, but that they do not cover the entirety of a patient’s life.

Need to connect

In response, it says that within six months of social care providers having an operational digital social care record in place they should be able to connect to a local shared care record. This will be backed by DHSC reinforcing the use of the NHS number across the sector.

It will also work with the sector on establishing a suite of data standard to support information sharing. This will begin by laying down a roadmap for standards development by April and developing a process to consolidate existing terminology standards by December.

These steps will be accompanied by proposals in the Health and Care Bill to introduce a power to mandate standards for how information is collected and stored to ensure it flows through the system in a usable way.

The paper also requires health and social care providers in ICSs to reach a minimum level of digital maturity, with a functional and single health and social care record for each citizen by 2024.

Population platforms

In addition, by 2025 each ICS will implement a population health platform with functions for care co-ordination that use joined up data to support planning; and all the organisations within each one will be encouraged to use the same digital systems, with interventions from DHSC where it considers then necessary.

The paper also forecasts that one million people will be supported by digitally enabled care pathways in the course of this year.

Other features regarding digital and data include:

  • over 20% of care homes to have acoustic monitoring solutions or equivalent care tech in place by March 2024;
  • improving citizen access to information through and the NHS App;
  • bringing more tech graduates into the NHS and increasing the number of apprenticeships.

On a broader front, other elements of the paper include local authorities and NHS bodies being more transparent about their performance, an emphasis on early interventions and giving people access to specialist services, better NHS support for care homes, and the pooling of council and health service budgets to use resources more flexibly.

Save people from gaps

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) said: “Better integration is vital to stop people falling into the gaps between health and social care.

“Ensuring our health and care systems work in unison will mean we can support hardworking staff, provide better care to patients and deliver value for the taxpayer.

“Our Integration white paper is part of our wider plans to reform and recover the health and social care system, ensuring everyone gets the treatment and care they need, when and where they need it.”

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