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King’s Fund tells NHS to strengthen digital plans

22/09/16

Briefing paper points to a need for consistency and less talk about costs savings and ‘paperless NHS’

The NHS needs set out a strong plan for the wider use of digital technology in healthcare, according to a new briefing published by healthcare research charity The King’s Fund.

HeritageHealthPrizeTitled A digital NHS?, it highlights the risk of frontline staff becoming alienated if the agenda is continually subject to shifting priorities, new initiatives and slipping timescales. Instead, it argues, there is a need for urgent clarification of when funding already announced will be made available.

The briefing supports the conclusion of the recent national review led by Professor Robert Wachter that additional funding will be needed to achieve the government’s goals, as well as his call for a more realistic timetable for implementing the NHS digital agenda in acute hospitals, where most progress needs to be made.

This is despite the Government having made more than £4 billion available for digital and technology projects in the NHS over the course of this parliament.

It also stresses the need for more engagement with clinical staff in increasing the use of digital, arguing that too heavy a focus on cost savings and talk about a ‘paperless NHS’ could distract attention from providing better care for patients.

Challenging context

Matthew Honeyman, policy researcher at The King’s Fund, said: “Digital technology has the potential to transform the way patients engage with services and support them in managing their health and wellbeing. In the incredibly challenging context in which the NHS finds itself, a clear plan is needed for taking the digital health agenda forward.

“Ministers and NHS leaders must articulate a clear and compelling vision which conveys the benefits of digitisation to the clinical staff who will be central to implementing it and provide certainty about the funds available to support it.”

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