NHS Digital’s Capabilities define what we do (as opposed to how) as an organisation in order to successfully deliver outcomes as defined by our strategy, and to our end customers.
We publish our Capabilities to enable external organisations to understand what services - or Capabilities - we can deliver, which they can use for their benefit. This makes commissioning services easier and reduces inefficiencies and duplication.
Many of our Capabilities summarise repeatable and scalable underlying Resources - or assets - and to this end it is important to highlight and promote reuse, where appropriate.
Capabilities are grouped into internal or external facing, dependant on their availability to outside organisations and customers
An example of an internal capability is People Management; It is an important function, not unique to NHS Digital, nor is it something we make available externally.
Screening on the other hand is an external, and many of our services realise this capability in diverse ways.
We have divided capabilities into groups that makes sense for our business. They don't necessarily apply everywhere, but are groupings that work for NHS Digital.
The tables below list the groupings with a description and click through to the individual capabilities.
An accessible version of these groupings can be found below.
NHS Digital external capabilities
Electronic care record group
Personal health record (PHR)
A record is a PHR if it:
is secure, usable and online
is managed by the person who the record is about and they can add information to their PHR (as well as health and care professionals)
stores information about that person’s health, care and wellbeing
PHRs are sometimes called other things, like patient portals, but they are PHRs if they meet this PHR definition.
Digital health and care records operated by national organisations.
Digital health and care records operated by regional organisations.
Digital health and care records operated by local health and social care organisations.
The process by which patient's information is brought together from different sources; this can be at local (such as fit-bit data), regional or national levels, but aims to avoid duplication and ambiguity.
Digital infrastructure are the technical foundational services that are necessary to the IT capabilities of an organisation; it underpins the digital, cultural and social infrastructures to support the digitisation of the NHS; it includes the hardware and IT networks, with appropriate bandwidth.
Citizen health group
Any information that is available to be consumed by a patient or a citizen; or for a patient to send information (data) to a care provider. This can be access to a website; or using a device or app to exchange data with a service - for example, apps, devices, telehealth service, patient reported outcome, connected home, home blood tests; and with devices working in both connected and disconnected modes.
This includes people playing a role in their own health, choosing appropriate treatments and managing long-term conditions; the use of tools (electronic or web-enabled) to determine severity of symptoms in determining whether to self-refer; also remote patient monitoring; and wearables.
Screening is the process of identifying healthy people who may have an increased chance of a disease or condition; the screening provider then offers information, further tests and treatment (to reduce associated problems or complications.
Primary care administration
Clinicians and other staff in primary care settings use IT systems to facilitate clinical care to individuals and communities, clinical governance and practice administration; in turn, the health records are used to improve communication with the patient; and looks to improve the record, through audit for example.
NHS Digital response to COVID-19 pandemic, including shielding
Vulnerability management is the "cyclical practice of identifying, classifying, prioritising, remediating, and mitigating" software vulnerabilities.
Protection of data by identifying and mitigating cyber threats and by managing cyber incidents.
Identity and access management
Identity management, also known as identity and access management (IAM or IDAM), is a framework of policies and technologies for ensuring that the proper people in an enterprise (whether staff or patients) have the appropriate access to technology and data resources.
Clinical governance is “a system through which NHS organisations are accountable for continuously improving the quality of their services and safeguarding high standards of care by creating an environment in which excellence in clinical care will flourish." (Scally and Donaldson 1998, p.61).
It is the process of assuring that all IT solutions delivered, deployed and operated in hospitals, clinics, GP practices, pharmacies, nursing homes and other health and social care environments, support the provision of safe care for patients. Clinical safety emphasises the preventing, reducing, reporting and analysis of clinical errors that often lead to adverse healthcare events.
Information governance (IG) is the way in which the NHS handles all of its information, in particular the personal and sensitive information relating to patients and employees.
The management and approval of health and care system wide standards.
Patient care delivery group
Digital tools used for assessing, triage and directing contact from citizens to care services.
ePrescribing and medicines administration (ePMA)
The utilisation of electronic systems to facilitate and enhance communication of a prescription or medicine order, aiding the choice, administration and supply of a medicine through knowledge and decision support and providing a robust audit trail for the entire medicines use process. (“Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards: Achieving an Integrated Digital Care Record”, NHS England, 2013)
Orders and results
The generation of clinical tests - "orders" - communication to the right system and then reporting of the results.
Diagnostics is a test or group of tests and evaluations carried out to identify and monitor a patient/service user's disease or condition, with the aim of establishing a diagnosis for a patient/service user (or occasionally requesting a therapeutic procedure, such as image guided stent insertion). Strong overlap with the capability 'orders and results management'.
Transfer of care
Transfer of Care is the ability for the movement of a patient/service user between health and care organisations or professionals, while maintaining the clinical context and information about the patient/service user. For example, the transfer of a patient/service user from hospital back to primary care. It includes the processes and policies, as well as the medico-legal concept of hand-over of responsibility from one health and care professional to another, usually from one legal organisation to another, such as from specialist to GP, as well as less formal hand-offs of care from one health and care professional to another. The health and care professional who is providing management for some or all of a patient/service user's conditions or problems, relinquishes this responsibility to another health and care professional, who explicitly agrees to accept responsibility.
Appointment management group
The process of arranging an appointment time (or 'slot') in a health or social care service, usually secondary care.
Referral is the ability to make a request to a health and care professional or organisation to provide care, consultation, review, or further action, to one or more patients/service users. The request could be made by a health and care professional, a health and care organisation on behalf of a patient/service user or a patient/service user themselves. The capability includes the recording, reviewing, sending, and reporting on patient referrals; and the recording referral information against the patient's record.
Clinical support group
The use of digital services to provide clinicians and other health professionals with clinical decision support, that is, assistance with clinical decision-making tasks in real-time
Recommendations by a digital system to clinicians specific to a patient's condition and level of risk. An alert may:
take the form of a data item displayed to a user whenever the patient record is access, such as looked-after-child.
encompass system-to-person health communication that is important or time sensitive - for example, incoming test result
be a calendar reminder or a notification of a new message
Alerts are typically delivered through a notification system.
A capability for a community (or clinical team) to manage the needs of groups of citizens by assignment to pathways and care teams.
It also supports the allocation of appropriate health and care workers operating across a community to patients/service users such that the workers have a manageable number of appropriate 'cases' within their workload. Supports maintaining an optimum balance between needs, skills, capacity, resources and outcomes, such as the co-ordination of the workload of a team of district nurses supporting care across a small town.
A capability for a group of citizens or staff to communicate (with each other) for support and assistance; more specifically, about digital services that support the process of two or more people or organisations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal
This is the process of arranging, controlling and optimising work and workloads in the NHS, in particular to manage and plan human and other resources, such as operating theatres and rostering, and to get resources at the right place at the right time.
Organisation administration group
The process of assessing needs, planning and prioritising, purchasing and monitoring health services, to get the best health outcomes.
A capability to determine payment of health care providers using evidence of outcomes/activity.
Note - does not include Personal Budgets
A process that appraises the overall health needs of a geographic area, or population, and determines how these needs can be met in the most effective manner through the allocation of existing and anticipated future resources. Planning focuses on the services to be provided and is distinct from ‘capital’ planning.
A capability to define the services available to support patients and how these services can be contacted and/or accessed to support specific patient needs and transfers of care.
Data management group
Process of gathering and measuring information in an established systematic fashion, which then enables answers to relevant questions and to evaluate outcomes.
Data quality refers to the state of qualitative or quantitative pieces of information. Data is generally considered high quality if it is fit for its intended uses in operations, decision making and planning; if it correctly represents the real-world construct to which it refers; and, as the number of data sources increases, internal data consistency.
Compilation of core set of reference data which is the standardised view for the national data sets processing. Published reference data can be used for further data processing at the federated platforms.
Data linkage and management
Management of data including linking disparate datasets through indices, such as the NHS Number.
Data dissemination group
Published statistical information, electronically or by traditional media.
To support the transfer and dissemination of data from one place to another and from one organisation to other parties (with which there is a relationship) across multiple channels. Also includes reporting of the analysis of clinical practice data locally to support clinical care and management.
Measures of elements of process, structure and/or outcomes of clinical care which may, when assessed over time, provide a method of assessing the quality and safety of care at a system level; and to identify areas of concern which might require further review or development.
Data analytics group
Analytics is the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data. It also entails applying data patterns towards effective decision making. In other words, analytics can be understood as the connective tissue between data and effective decision-making.
Use of analytics tools and techniques to discover, interpret, and communicate meaningful patterns in any data layer, and to support national initiatives for analytics and data services. Analysis of anonymous patient based data ("Secondary Use Data" ) for purposes other than direct care. Data captured through records linkage or injection from various sources, analysed using statistical modelling, data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to assist professionals and service users by providing business intelligence.
NHS Digital internal capabilities
Product and service delivery group
IT service management refers to the entirety of activities – directed by policies, organised and structured in processes and supporting procedures – that are performed by an organisation to design, plan, deliver, operate and control information technology services offered to customers.
The planning, forecasting, and production, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle. Similarly, product lifecycle management (PLM) integrates people, data, processes and business systems. It provides product information for the NHS ecosystem
Project Portfolio Management is the centralised management of the processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices to analyse and collectively manage current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics.
Business support operation group
The functions around managing staff in the organisation, in terms of human resources, policies, recruitment, retention, training, performance and team management.
The management of the organisation's estates, buildings and assets. This includes the sustainability of the organisation.
Effective financial management: supporting sound decision-making, facilitating accountability, improving and refining planning, and enabling the organisation to devise its strategy and manage risks to its delivery; and to ensure accounts are balanced at financial year end.
The supervision and maintenance of relationships between a company and its external partners, especially its clients.
The identification and development of business opportunities and the profitable management of projects and contracts, from inception to completion.
Risk and compliance
Risk is the ability to effectively and cost-efficiently mitigate risks that can hinder the organisation's operations or ability to remain competitive. Compliance is the organisation's conformance with regulatory requirements for business operations, data retention and other business practices.
The discipline whereby all of the information technology resources of the organisation are managed in accordance with its needs and priorities. These resources include tangible investments like computer hardware, software, data, networks and data centre facilities, as well as the staff who are hired to maintain them.
Strategy and architecture
Setting of strategic direction including the maintenance and development of the organisation's enterprise and technical architecture.
Supports the delivery and management of communications to patients and clinical staff. It involves the sharing of specialist knowledge and advice between healthcare professionals across a local or wider community regarding a patient/service user's condition in order to make the correct decisions/course of action regarding their future treatment. For example, MDT consultation via Webex, videoconferencing.