Matt Hancock outlines his tech vision for UK healthcare

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has launched his The Future of Healthcare, promising that outdated and obstructive NHS IT systems will become a thing of the past.

The technology vision will be the foundation for a new generation of digital services that will meet the needs of clinicians, patients and managers. In revealing it, Hancock outlines plans to introduce minimum technical standards that digital services and IT systems in the NHS will have to meet. Having these open standards in place means systems will be able to talk to each other securely and ensure they are upgradable.

The government will look to end contracts with providers who do not understand these principles for the health and care sector, with any system that fails to meet these standards to be phased out. Outside those standards, all trusts and CCGs will have freedom to buy what they need.

Hancock said: “The tech revolution is coming to the NHS. These robust standards will ensure that every part of the NHS can use the best technology to improve patient safety, reduce delays and speed up appointments.

“A modern technical architecture for the health and care service has huge potential to deliver better services and to unlock our innovations. We want this approach to empower the country’s best innovators – inside and outside the NHS – and we want to hear from staff, experts and suppliers to ensure our standards will deliver the most advanced health and care service in the world.”

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive at NHS Digital, said: “Greater standardisation of data, infrastructure, platforms and APIs will create a health and care system that is more joined-up, and as a result safer and more efficient. Connected systems ensure that clinicians have immediate access to all relevant and appropriate patient data from all care providers and settings, and ensure that data is communicated between systems with absolute fidelity, eliminating misinformation and misunderstandings. In addition, we will increasingly be able to provide citizens and patients with direct and immediate access to their medical records.

“We are injecting a new level of energy and commitment. NHS Digital is providing a new clear framework to simplify the guidance on those standards that matter most. We are going to build the detailed guidance on these standards in partnership with technologists across the system and with industry partners.

“We recognise that the implementation journey is complex. Through consultation we will seek to understand in detail what the challenges are for different parties and throughout implementation we will focus on providing clear specifications, detailed guidance and extensive support. Our goal is to ensure successful implementation through engagement and facilitation, ensuring that changes that are mandated are reasonable and achievable. This work matters too much for any of us to shy away from the challenge.”

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