The Government has pledged almost half a billion pounds to support the roll out of new digital technology in the NHS.
Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock made the promise in his first major speech in the brief at West Suffolk Hospital today.
He said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is to make £400 million available for technology in hospitals to patients safer and help more people access services from home.
In addition, it will give £75 million to healthcare trusts to put in place digital systems with the aim of reducing medication errors by up to 50% and giving clinicians more time to spend with patients.
The investment will be accompanied by the development of data standards and work on the data architecture to ensure interoperability, and efforts to help NHS staff adapt to using the technology.
Hancock that more details should be available during the autumn, some in the scheduled green paper on social care.
“We need to think about how the technology so many of use in daily can be joined up with the resources we have in the health system to improve care and reduce pressure on the NHS,” he said.
Hancock, who became head of the DHSC in the recent Government reshuffle, said technology is one of his three early priorities along with workforce and prevention.
“For too long, decisions on health and care seemed to involve a trade-off – improving patient outcomes at the expense of placing ever more pressure on staff, while reducing the demands on staff has been seen to have an impact on patient care,” he said.
“Technology and data innovation offers an opportunity to move past this binary approach.”
He cited several examples of progress, including NHS Choices’ work with Amazon to ensure its Alexa voice activated software, which is becoming increasingly popular, leads people to expert information about healthcare rather than that from unknown sources.
Other cases included the use of barcode tracking of patients in hospitals under the Scan4Safety programme, and the Royal College of Nursing’s ‘Every nurse an e-nurse' approach to increase the use of electronic health records and other smart tools.
Hancock acknowledged complaints about his use of the Babylon NHS GP service and worries about errors emerging from the use of algorithms in healthcare, but said such issues require changes in the rules rather than curbing the use of the technology.
He also said that technology investments have often increased costs in healthcare, and that one of the priorities is to ensure this does not continue.