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NHS SBS unveils Digital Health Advisory Service framework

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NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) has launched a Digital Health Advisory Service procurement framework.

It said the framework is the only one of its kind in the UK and is designed to help the NHS augment the digital, data and technology (DDaT) skills and capabilities of its workforce.

This comes in response to an acknowledgement that NHS do not always have the skills to support the implementation and operation of new technologies, such as algorithm assisted diagnosis and electronic patient records, along with large scale digital transformation.

NHS SBS said the new framework provides health and care organisations with a simple and cost-effective means to address their immediate and short term DDaT expertise needs at pace, compliantly and cost-effectively.

It has been developed in collaboration with NHS England’s Transformation Directorate and will open until March 2026 with options to extend for another two years.

Four lots

The framework consists of four lots: specialist digital and healthcare clinical consultancy; clinical and digital health delivery and augmentation; clinical data science and population health analytics; and digital skills in healthcare.

It comprises 40 vetted providers of consultancy services that can provide support with the delivery of IT projects, clinical informatics advisory, digital training and provision of temporary staff with DDaT skills. Half of the providers are small to medium enterprises and all specialise in digital healthcare.

It is free to access and can be used by GP practices, hospitals, health centres, emergency services and integrated care systems to procure support to complete digital projects in flight, or accelerate the rate of digital and technological advancement within a trust.

The move follows the commissioning of a report under Health Education England’s Digital Readiness programme that found in the lead up to 2030, and in line with projected demand, an additional 32,000 full-time equivalent in DDaT roles will be needed to reach a forecasted required size of 78,000.  This covers roles from frontline help desk and data analysts through to software developers and cybersecurity engineers -

While recruiting and retaining these is a long term goal, the NHS also needs short term solutions, and investments in the NHS digital workforce will need to be made if the NHS is to realise its ambitions around digital transformation.

Building capabilities

David Holbrook, senior category manager digital workforce and IT transformation at NHS SBS said: “The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan states that harnessing the opportunities presented by digital and technological innovations requires NHS staff to continue to build digital skills and capabilities.

“Workforce is one of the most cited challenges facing the NHS and the purpose of our framework agreement is to help accelerate successful digital adoption by providing immediate access to the tools, expertise and digital skills the NHS needs and to support it bridge the gap along its journey to transformation.”

The launch of the framework comes soon after four for specific solutions on digital transformation for better patient outcomes, elective recovery, future proofing estates and infrastructure, and virtual wards.

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