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Public sector digital in the party manifestoes

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Three weeks away from the general election the party manifestoes have now been made public, and there is a light sprinkling but no big surge of new plans to harness digital and data for public services.

It appears that the issue has not been at the forefront of thinking about policy in any of the major parties. There is a smattering of pledges, some reflecting efforts that are already under way, few providing any notable detail and generally focused on health and social care.

There is a slightly wider spread in the Labour Party document, but the overall lack of detail should not be a surprise. Politicians generally recognise the importance of digital and data for public services, but few show any inclination to grasp the details. The subject does not stir the emotions of the public, is not seen as a vote winner, so does not attract much attention in the top ranks of the parties.

There may be some work by policy officials and researchers, but it has a low priority and is given a low profile. Most of the new ideas come from within the various public services, with politicians ready to pick up those that seem the most credible.


The party’s manifesto includes a spending pledge of £3.4 billion for new technology “to transform the NHS for staff and patients”, with the plans generally taking existing efforts further.

They include using AI to free up doctors’ and nurses’ time for frontline patient care, digitising processes through the Federated Data Platform (currently under development), replacing tens of thousands of computers to slash the 13 million hours lost to IT issues every year, and funding technology to help clinicians read MRI and CT scans more quickly.

On a patient facing front, there is a pledge to roll out digital health checks to 250,000 people every year – with the aim of preventing strokes and heart attacks – an extending the capabilities of the NHS App to make it a “single front door” for services.

There is also a pledge to double digital and AI expertise in the Civil Service, without citing any number, to take advantage of the technologies as part of a wider drive to cut government bureaucracy.


A broader sweep of measures is included in the Labour Party manifesto, with healthcare again providing a significant element.

The section on modernising the NHS says there is a need for state of the art scanners with embedded AI to diagnose conditions such as cancer more quickly, and says the party would introduce a Fit for the Future Fund to double the number of CT and MRI scanners – a move it has costed at £250 milion. It also talks of reforming incentive structures for innovation and speeding up regulatory approval for new technology.

A section on ‘mission driven government’ includes a reference to the importance of harnessing new technology, but with no supporting detail. There is also a line on investing in new technology at HM Revenue and Customs, related to a wider £850 million spend on reducing tax avoidance.

Along with these is an acknowledgement of the importance of technology in policing, and a promise to work with national policing bodies to standardise approaches to IT, procurement, professional standards and training. This comes with an investment in areas such as digital forensics.

Liberal Democrat

There are a couple of points relevant to digital in social care in the LibDem manifesto, albeit with little supporting detail. One is the future development of a “digital strategy for tech enabled lives”; the other the roll out of digital platforms for care users.

The latter are intended to support the development of networks and relationships so that users can connect with care workers, friends, families, voluntary groups and other sources of support.

Scottish National Party

The SNP manifesto includes a strong emphasis on building connectivity and digital inclusion in Scotland, while for services it also throws the emphasis onto health and social care.

Most strikingly, there is a plan to establish a Digital Mental Health programme, reflecting an increased use of digital services in the sector, although no further detail is provided.

The manifesto emphasises the importance of the existing Near Me service for video consultations with GPS, saying that while these are not suitable for everyone it will move towards making this the default option. This will be accompanied by the development of a MyNHS app to provide health information and support access to services.

A move towards digital prescriptions is also included.

The document also promises the implementation of digital solutions to support case management in the criminal justice process and people in prison, through kiosks and in-cell services.

The others

Plaid Cymru makes just a brief reference to building digital infrastructure in the valleys and rural areas.

The Green Party manifesto contains no specifics on digital and data in public services.

Reform has not yet published a manifesto and there is nothing relevant on its website.

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