The Welsh Government has announced plans to appoint a chief digital officer for health and care along with an upgrade in the status of the organisation for digital programmes in the health service.
Health and Social Services Minister Vaughan Gething revealed the plans as an initiative to transform digital health and care in the country, saying they would come with £50 million of funding and that he had commissioned new strategic reviews for the sector.
“Two expert reviews have informed the plans I am announcing today,” Gething said. “A new chief digital officer will strengthen leadership, setting common standards on an all-Wales basis.
“A new NHS Wales organisation focussed on digital will strengthen the delivery of national services. And an additional £50 million of investment into strategic priorities will speed up change.”
He said the chief digital officer will define national standards for digital software and services, as part of moving to an open digital architecture, across all digital systems. The appointee will also advise the Welsh Government on digital strategy, lead the digital profession, and be a champion for digital health and care in the country.
NHS Wales Informatics Services will become a new standalone NHS Wales organisation with the status of a special health authority, similar to the recently established Health Education and Improvement Wales. It will have an independent chair and board, appointed by Welsh Government ministers.
The money will be made available under a Digital Priorities Investment Fund under five themes: transforming digital services for patients and public; transforming digital services for professionals; investing in data and intelligent information; modernising devices and moving to cloud services; and cyber security and resilience.
“Our long term vision for the NHS, A Healthier Wales, sets out the importance of digital technology in the future of healthcare,” Gething said. “It plays an absolutely essential role throughout the health service and in social care, and it empowers patients and the public to manage their own health and wellbeing.
“I want everyone in Wales to have access to the highest quality digital health and care services, including professionals, the public and patients.”
He added: “These are landmark changes, but there is more work to do, and I have commissioned further reviews in priority areas. I am determined that we maintain the pace of transformation, so that we use new digital technologies to benefit the public and patients in Wales, and to make our health and care services sustainable for future generations.”
The reviews will feed into a national digital infrastructure plan, digital workforce plan, commercial strategy and communication strategy, all to be published next year.
A Healthier Wales was published in June of last year, along with the announcement of the £100 million Transformation Fund and a drive to move more care away from hospitals into community and the home and integrated prevention services.
Later in the year, the Welsh Government announced the Digital Inclusion and Health programme to get staff and patients making more use of technology.
Image from Welsh Government, Open Government Licence