By Dr Simon Eccles, 21 November 2018
Dr Simon Eccles, the Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care, reflects on the tremendous work that has gone into the development of the NHS’s Long Term Plan and the contributions from both internal and external partners.
By Dr Simon Eccles, 21 November 2018
Change without continuity and clarity of ambition can result in chaos and disconnection from the shared vision of care that drives successful organisations. With the recent government announcement of additional funding for the NHS, we have a genuine opportunity to plan for the next five years, confident of the level of budget increases we can expect. The NHS has been working at tremendous pace on a plan setting out our ambitions for improvement over the next decade, going beyond the five years of the funding settlement.
I am very grateful to the thousands of individuals that have helped Sarah Wilkinson, Steve Dunn and me shape a shared vision for digital transformation as part of this wider plan. Over the last few months, we have met people with learning disabilities, marginalised communities, young people, tech industry leaders, voluntary sector staff, Lords, medics, front line staff, chief executives and clinical leaders.. Collectively we have created a roadmap for how we digitise health and care and a clear marker of the scale of our ambition for digital transformation. We have landed on five key groups as crucial to successful transformation:
But for all the ambition in the world, we can’t get there overnight. In order to ensure we can deliver the plan, we need to get the basics right and spread the learning and innovation faster.
In the short term, if the NHS enables free-flowing patient information accessible to all who need it to provide great patient care, the patient is no longer ‘owned’ by one clinician at a time. We can begin to centre care around the needs of the individual rather than NHS bricks and mortar.
In the longer term, we will springboard from accessible data, capable of being independent of the system in which it is held, into open APIs which allow brilliant, innovative apps to sit on top of existing products. We will allow staff and citizens to interact with healthcare in an intuitive way. Technology fit for use in every NHS organisation will enable face to face consultations to be complemented by virtual clinics. Natural Language Processing like that which underpins Alexa or Siri will support patients with online advice at home and hospital doctors with a true digital assistant that prevents multiple junior doctors having to sign into multiple systems and record information many times.
As part of this job I have been lucky enough to visit hospitals around the UK and have seen really clever examples of innovative use of existing technology. Staff able to see patient records on their own hand-held devices. Rapid log-ons with single sign-ons. If any single NHS organisation was to take the best in digital transformation from everywhere else, it would offer an excellent quality of life to its staff and I have no doubt that this would reflect in a better quality of care for the patients they serve. The short-term future is already here. It is just not evenly spread.
About Dr Simon Eccles
Dr. Simon Eccles is the Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care. His role spans the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, NHS Improvement and the arms-length bodies. He is accountable for delivery of the Digital Transformation portfolio, and the whole of the central NHS IT expenditure.
Simon still practices one day a week as a consultant in Emergency Medicine at St Thomas’ Hospital.