NHS tech priorities for 2022: “digital innovation will remain front and centre”

As the New Year approaches, HTN is keen to keep to looking forwards. So, to continue our festive features series, we asked health tech professionals from, or who work alongside, the NHS, to tell us about their priorities for 2022.

Find out below, where you can read about some of the expectations and ideas from professionals working at NHSX, NHS England and Improvement, NHS Resolution, Health Education England (HEE), Health Innovation Manchester, Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, and a number of trusts across the country…

“Digital innovation will remain front and centre”

Bruno Botelho, Deputy COO and Director of Digital Operations at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and co-lead of the trust’s flagship CW Innovation programme, which is run in partnership with their charity CW+, explained to HTN what his teams will be targeting next year.

“Here at Chelsea and Westminster, our priorities are, unsurprisingly, aiding recovery from the pandemic and managing the number of patients waiting for treatment. Both require an urgent response as manual and time-intensive processes are inadequate,” Bruno stated, “our focus this year has been integrating digital ecosystems across our network and this will continue to be a priority for next year as we roll out our single platform called Improving Elective Care Coordination for Patients.”

“Digital innovation will remain front and centre, and we will place increasing emphasis on better connecting systems to address the COVID-related challenges we face. For example, integration with data extraction and discovering technology will help us work smarter and deliver better care, with real-time data and analytics not only improving clinicians’ decision making, but also patient outcomes. Combine increased integration with the use of digital and remote communication technologies, and the patient will also be better informed so they can closely manage their condition, empowering them to take action in near real-time and more long-term,” he concluded.

Switching from secondary to primary care priorities, Dr Minal Bakhai, GP and Clinical Director of General Practice Transformation and Digital First Primary Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “We in general practice have demonstrated with confidence our ability to deliver really transformative change at pace. We’re continuing to transform the model of general practice to make it more inclusive, equitable and personalised – so all patients get the care they need from the right person, at the right time and in the right way.

“We will continue to see digital tools mature to help practices prioritise urgent need and better match demand to the most appropriate healthcare professional and enable patients to interact more flexibly with general practice, underpinned by well-designed user experiences.

“Nationally, work to improve service design and integration of digital tools within general practice and with other primary care services will continue, co-producing improvements with practices and patients, in particular understanding and addressing the needs of people at risk of exclusion.

“We will focus on supporting stronger communications between practices and their patients through our national campaign to help deal with the very real pressure points and reassure patients who are less confident that however they choose to make contact (online, phone or in-person) their needs will be met.

“Finally, there will be a renewed focus on embedding transformation and improvement capability, in particular supporting practices working in the most challenging circumstances to innovate, redesign and collaborate while making needed investments to prevent the worst effects of this pandemic from happening again.”

David Farrell, Head of Digital Readiness at Health Education England, told us about what HEE has to look forward to: “2022 is set to be another exciting year for Health Education England’s Digital Readiness team as we continue our work to uplift digital skills, knowledge, understanding and awareness across the health and care workforce. This will include the expansion of the NHS Digital Academy with the addition of more formal learning programmes and the provision of online learning sessions mapped to foundation, core, specialist, and advanced levels; the launch of a digital literacy self-assessment signposting tool for all staff; ongoing Board level development for all organisation types (including ICSs, trusts, primary care, and community care providers) and products to support the skilling and re-skilling of our future workforce.”

Offering HTN the view of digital priorities from an ambulance service, Stephen Bromhall, Chief Information Officer, East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, explained, “East of England Ambulance Service will be continuing in 2022 with the front-line digitisation, as more clinical content is provided to our front line to support improved patient care. We will be also be deploying the National Record Locator portfolio.

“Several core technology solutions are in the planning process to enable key performance indicators to be delivered across the core technology services, these will benefit our patients and staff.

“Specifically, the trust is planning to improve and digitise many of the traditional paper centric process with the aim to provide a key digital service to all staff in line with the NHS LTP.”

Niamh McKenna, CIO at NHS Resolution, also shared goals for ‘digital fitness’ in the New Year: “After the festive season of feasting, January, for many, brings an annual focus on resolving to improve our way of life. Commonly, setting new personal fitness goals.

“While resolve is of course at NHS Resolution’s heart, in relation to patient care, in 2022 we’re making a New Year’s resolution – to enhance our fitness. Our digital fitness!

“Our three-pillar strategy is to: integrate and align better with the rest of the NHS; develop user–centric technology that can adapt as the organisation evolves; and ensure intelligence is at the core. AI can play a big part in data analysis, supporting our mission of sharing learning to improve patient safety.

“So, as we look to shed the weight of our current bespoke systems, embedding a leaner, single, cloud-based solution, our aim is to make our technology FIT:  Frictionless, Intelligent and Time-proof. Using these three guiding principles, as we embark on transforming our core systems into the future, next year is all about how we do this while ‘keeping the lights on’. The first step in January – migrating to NHSmail.”

Providing insights from an estates perspective was Karl Redmond, Strategic Estates Lead for the NHS Estates Delivery Unit, who said: “My priority will be to breakdown the siloed expertise in the NHS and raise the importance of digitised / Smart buildings – [they] are not only an enabler to help many of current requirements and future demands the NHS is facing but also a must have to ensure value for money for the tax payer.

“However, this agenda cannot and must not be placed into the hands of the same old faces…we need subject matter experts on both sides of the programme and clear, concise, knowledgeable and well written briefs that allow for connectivity, integration and interoperability. Smart Buildings have the ability to link ‘active and static’ data, simultaneously and holistically from various sources e.g. supply chains, inventory, sustainability, EFM, asset tracking and many more, which can, in turn, be linked to anonymised clinical data outputs – collectively this amalgamation of data will provide endless and on-going insights from a reliable and robust starting point.

“Delivery, delivery, delivery”

Richard Wyatt-Haines, Director of HCI Digital Delivery, who works alongside the NHS, focused on the expected upcoming challenges this winter, stating: “Delivery, delivery, delivery. Just trying to get stuff done in an NHS with this much pressure will be really hard. We have shown it can be done, but we and our fellow tech providers will need to work in partnership with the teams in the NHS to find novel and the best ways to get new solutions live as quickly as possible. We’re certainly up for it. Let’s go.”

Setting out personal work priorities was Glenn Winteringham, Chief Digital Officer for the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Glenn said: “My digital priorities for 2022 are to: 1. Support our EPR adoption and optimisation programme so we realise the benefits to  deliver better, faster, safer care and improve the staff experience; 2. Work in partnership with NCL ICS colleagues to augment our shared care record and population health management solutions; and to collaborate on new ICS wide digital  opportunities such as community diagnostic hubs, digital pathology and cyber security; 3. Enhance our patient portal to improve their experience and enable new models of care such as remote monitoring, asynchronous messaging and virtual care pathways; 4. Lead on the professional development our digital teams and to protect their well-being following their unbelievable efforts to develop new ways of working through the COVID pandemic.”

Speaking to us from West Yorkshire, meanwhile, was Andy Webster, Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. On digital patient priorities for the Leeds team, Andy explained, “Next year, we’ll be focusing on a number of projects within two key areas. The first is improving the digital experience for patients. We’re investing in a new Patient Portal, and also developing the ability to send electronic forms to patients to get information directly from them without always needing to see them face to face (where appropriate).

There would also be upgrades for staff too, as Andy added: “We’re also developing further improvements to the digital experience for our staff – modernising our infrastructure, reducing log in times, and upgrading more systems to modern software, including a new electronic document system and releasing new functionality for our new PAS. Additionally, investment in a new data platform will provide access to richer data and the insight that brings to help improve the care we provide for our patients. We’re also continuing to build on the achievements we’ve already delivered as part of our Paper Lite strategy, investing in a new digital solution for nursing care plans. This will provide a live feed of acuity, metrics and ward assurance data, enabling quicker and easier decisions about care, simplifying daily work and saving time.”

For NHSX, there are also plenty of projects ahead. Jade Ackers, Programme Director, Digital Productivity, NHSX, told HTN: “We have an ambitious delivery programme with our partners and stakeholders in 2022. This includes developing a national vision for extended realities (virtual, augmented, mixed) in healthcare, looking at its current use and future potential, and the benefits for patients, workforce and system.

“The team will be supporting the spread and scale of automation capability and the application of Automated Identification and Data Capture technology, levelling up digital maturity through the Unified Tech Fund that underpins the Tech Plan for Health and Care.”

It’s set to be a busy 2022 for The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, as Director of Health Informatics, James Rawlinson told us about wide-ranging priorities. James said: “2022 will see the final quarter of our Digital Aspirant programme. We’ve had some delays, mainly because we entered the programme before the COVID pandemic, and all of our staff are feeling the pressure. We’re motivating them to embrace further change, and will continue to do so in the coming year.

“In 2022 we’ll be live with 100 per cent of our upgraded IT infrastructure from data networks, Wi-Fi to storage. These are critical components to provide fast, safe, stable, flexible, modern digital systems.

“We’re in the final phases of testing our cloud-based digital dictation/voice recognition systems, patient correspondence and we are out to market for eConsent and Smart Hospital technology. These will dovetail into the Rotherham Health app, which we have now integrated into the trust’s wider EPR MediTech using Fast Healthcare Inoperability Resources (FHIR) open standards. In 2022, we’ll fully understand where we sit in the WGLL (What Good Looks Like) framework in time to update our digital strategy by the summer.”

“Improving equality and diversity within the innovation pipeline is crucial”

Ruby Bhatti OBE, a public contributor who supports lay views at NIHR, NHS England and at various universities, explained priorities around digital poverty and inclusivity, stating: “As PPIE (Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement), the priorities I feel which are important for me is to close the gap of digital poverty and ensure we reach out to those rural communities where accessing technology is an issue.  

“The virtual digital world must ensure more patient and carers can access technology, whether you are deaf, partial blind or English is not your first language. The digital tools need to be more inclusive and this must  be through better technology supporting better accessibility tools, access to more language or voice recognition tools, or providing access to digital gadgets. We need to ensure the digital platforms add value and will enhance the patients’ and carers’ experience.”

Guy Lucchi, Digital innovation Director at Health Innovation Manchester & Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, shared thoughts on opportunities, wishes, and expectations for the next year – encapsulating the wide scope of both the challenge and the possibility ahead.

Guy explained: “The pandemic has presented many challenges, but the opportunity for digital transformation in response has been a priority for the GM health and care system. More digital funding has been made available to support this in 2021, and while we expect that trend to continue, we want to see a much more joined-up approach to distribution of funds to meet ICS priorities, aligned to levels of digital maturity and local challenges.

“Technology-enabled health care will remain a major transformational theme, but this needs to be more grounded in the experience of citizens and end-users, so expect user experience design to become more of a trend, especially when needed to develop digital services that are inclusive of disadvantaged communities, as is the case in parts of Greater Manchester.”

For Kathy Scott, Director of Operations and Deputy CEO for Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), there was also a dual focus on the challenges ahead, as well as the potential.

“In 2022, the NHS will still face incredible challenges as it continues to battle and recover from the pandemic. The adoption and spread of remote monitoring technology to keep people out of hospital and ease pressure on the NHS plays an important part in its recovery,” Kathy said, before turning to important issues around equality, diversity, climate change and ‘levelling up’.

“Advocating for ‘levelling-up’ our region is a big part of our work; we’ll be continuing to lobby the government to consider health and wellbeing in all economic decision-making. This will also help us to address health inequalities as we engage leaders at a national level. Improving equality and diversity within the innovation pipeline is crucial to this; we want to ensure new ideas are representative of the healthcare workforce and the communities it serves. Climate change will continue to be a big priority – innovation is critical in helping us to act against it and our unique position between the NHS and industry will allow us to look for evidence-based solutions that enables us to help reduce the NHS’ carbon footprint.”

Chris Mason, Chief Information Officer, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, also shared aims for the next 12 months and beyond, commenting: “An exciting year [is] on the horizon for Wirral University Teaching Hospital, as we start to operationalise our new Digital Strategy. At an organisation level the hospital advances in digital efficiencies with planned deployments of a new DD/VR solution as well as a major upgrade in the Cerner Millennium Electronic Patient Record (EPR). There’s further enhancements to medical device connectivity with infusion pumps and medical photography solutions on the agenda.”

Chris added: “With patient focus at the centre of our journey we will be looking to bring eConsent and pre-operative assessment functionality to our patient portal – allowing patients to become more involved in their own care. From a Wirral perspective, the organisation continues to work alongside its Healthy Wirral Partners as we forge ahead with our population health solution, with opportunities being explored to collaborate at a wider ICS level. Regional initiatives for Imaging and Digital Pathology will provide greater resilience and throughput for diagnostic services.”

“Connectivity also needs to go mainstream”

Dr Afzal Chaudhry, Director of Digital at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, also kindly shared updates on the trust’s planned tech and digital projects with HTN, highlighting analytics, data, risk intervention, personalised medicine and Shared Care Records, among the many priorities.

Dr Chaudhry commented: “As a HIMSS EMRAM Stage 7 trust, our continued focus for 2022 is on further advancing our analytics capabilities and use of data to drive predictive analytics, enhance clinical risk intervention and support more personalised medicine for our patients. To achieve this we will be extending the reporting and analytical capabilities of our Trust-wide electronic patient record system (EPR) and expanding curated data streams to support data-driven analysis and insights into clinical and operational outcomes. This work will also support additional opportunities, including (with appropriate governance) use of data for research.

“In addition, we will be progressing with the deployment of the Cambridge and Peterborough integrated Shared Care Record (ShCR) to enable more joined-up sharing of information with patients and all health and social care organisations; ensuring they have the most up to date and accurate information when making decisions about a patient’s care in conjunction with the patient themselves. Establishing our connectivity with the ShCR is underway – we are currently piloting new NHS FHIR based messaging as a first of a kind development for our ShCR supplier, which will continue into the early part of 2022.

“We also have many other large-scale projects planned for 2022 to further enhance our use of technology to support patient care and safety. One such project is the integration of infusion pumps with our EPR to deliver real-time bi-directional data transmittal with automated transfer of a drug infusion prescription / administration orders to the pumps and the return confirmation of the actual volumes infused over any given period of time – safe, accurate, precise, patient-centred and timely high quality care underpinned by technology.

“This is the next phase of our medical device integration work, building on what we have already achieved by integrating over 140 ventilators and physiological patient monitors, and anesthetic carts, across all our theatres and critical care areas to our EPR, as well as our point of care testing devices (glucose meters, blood gas analysers and urine analysers), lab analysers and ECG machines.”

Liam King, Managing Director of Healthcare Gateway, explained how the company would continue to support the NHS: “As we look towards 2022, our overarching strategy is to continue to support the NHS in their response to COVID-19, and their aims to advance interoperability at scale and pace. Healthcare Gateway is not just a technology provider; we offer an end-to-end managed service to support every step of an interoperability journey, regardless of digital maturity. Our focus will continue to provide ICS-wide digital solutions as well as expanding our Medical Interoperability Gateway (MIG) coverage to support NHS Health Boards across Scotland to provide solutions solving interoperability challenges, enabling clinicians access to vital real-time patient data.

“Nurturing and developing relationships with our partners is crucial to our success in facilitating data sharing and supporting our mutual customers in their efforts to provide the best possible patient care. In 2022, we’re looking forward to dataset developments including the launch of Mayden Iaptus (IAPT) Dataset which will enrich Shared Care Record ambitions with even more patient information via the MIG.”

In a similar vein, Kevin Douglas, Chief Strategist at Alertive, said: “In 2021 we saw the number of digital health products mushroom from 90,000 to 350,000 (across Europe). Many of these products are point solutions. Next year we’d like to see many of these products start to connect with each other to deliver more value. We hope there will be more co-operation between innovative companies; and plan to do our part by improving co-ordination by helping filter, process and direct information from new technologies to the staff who need it.”

Neil Darvill, Executive Director of Informatics, North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), stated: “2022 marks the fourth year of our digital transformation strategy at North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT), and even with everything delivered to date we can look forward to a milestone 12 months ahead. Among the highlights will be the commencement of our Digital Patient project (which will explore digital solutions to enhance, for example, Outpatient and Community Care), the launch of ICNet as our first true collaborative project with a neighbouring acute trust, a new clinical information system for NBT’s Intensive Care Unit, and the launch of a CareFlow patient administration system in July – a major step towards the creation of a new electronic patient record for the trust.

“All of this work will consolidate our culture of clinically-led innovation, and the strong partnership we have between clinicians and NBT IT. We’ll also continue to ensure that it’s supportive of – and in step with – our trust’s ongoing pandemic response.”

And finally, Adrian Smith, Head of Digital Transformation at NHS Arden & GEM CSU, said: “The NHS Long Term Plan announced that digital would go mainstream. Now, partly driven by the COVID-19 response, the NHS has recognised that in order to realise this digital ambition, connectivity also needs to go mainstream. In 2022, we are going to see a substantial part of the £5.4 billion backlog fund used by ICSs to transform care delivery models by exploiting the latest connectivity solutions.

“At NHS Arden & GEM, we’ll be working with NHSX, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 5G test beds and the Satellite Applications Catapult to realise the opportunities presented by improved connectivity for diagnostics. From remote ward rounds, to ambulances with the latest technology, to community diagnostic centres, to at-home self-administered tests, resilient connectivity solutions will open the door to genuine remote diagnosis.”


HTN would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who contributed their thoughts – we wish you safe and happy holidays over the festive season! We look forward to hearing more about your work in 2022 – thanks for all that you do!