Sajid Javid sets out vision for the NHS underpinned by digital

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid delivered a speech (8 March 2022) at the Royal College of Physicians, London, setting our his vision for the NHS.

The speech set out priorities for health reform, including underlying principles, as well as the role of digital, and themes including the right to choose, plans for personalised care and a digital first approach.

In terms of digital, Javid highlighted a new Digital Health and Care Plan is to be published this spring, and set out targets for electronic records to be rolled out to 90 percent of trusts by December 2023, and 80 percent of social care providers by March 2024.

Javid announced the reform agenda is to be built around the areas ‘prevention, personalisation, performance – and people’, including four underlying principles: “First, that services are redesigned around the patient by prioritising prevention and personalisation. Second, is clear performance standards and accountability. Third, is more choice, power, tech and funding in the hands of patients. And finally, backing our people with more freedom and support for system leaders and front-line innovators to partner and to deliver.”

The speech started off to focus on challenges, and questioned is reform worth the risks? Javid said: “But Covid has raised the stakes. The risks of doing nothing have dramatically increased. It’s not that we would simply stand still: we’d actually go backwards: taxes AND waiting lists would rise.”

On long term challenges: “How to keep the NHS focused on delivery while futureproofing it for changing demographics and disease; how to meet rising patient expectations and address the injustices of widespread disparities; and how to deal with an unsustainable financial trajectory while backing the brilliant people who work in health and care. I want to turn to each of those for a moment.

“Coming out of this pandemic is a once in a generation chance to reimagine how we do health.”

Focusing on the ‘reform agenda’, specifically the role of digital, Javid cited systems such as the National Booking System to support people to book their Covid-19 jab, and the NHS App allowing people to show their vaccination and Covid status. He said: “I want us to apply this level of ambition onto other routine vaccinations, with a new approach to vaccination. We can do it by taking forward the lessons we’ve learned and the technology we’ve built to deliver a sustainable vaccination service that doesn’t displace other health and care services. This can be a better experience for the public, but will also help the NHS drive the prevention agenda forward, providing improved data that helps plan services.

“This approach has merits for childhood vaccinations too. By harnessing data across programmes, we have tools to halt the decline in uptake of life-saving vaccines like MMR and become a global leader in the elimination of other preventable diseases.”

One of the four commitments as part of the prevention area, is to focus on ’21st Century Digital Prevention’. Javid said: “The NHS App has shown just how receptive people are to having healthcare literally in their hands. We’re going to build on this incredible momentum. We’re putting prevention at the heart of the NHS App, making it the front-door for preventive tools and services – like a new digital health check. And we’re going to further develop the apps and websites that give people direct access to the diagnostics and therapies. That’s the future.”

In terms of personalised care, Javid set out a new ambition, ‘”that as many as 4 million people [will] benefit from personalised care by March 2024, covering everything from social prescribing to support plans.”

Announcing a concept of the ‘Right to Choose’, he said: “It starts with more choice at the front door, including more active discussions between professionals and patients. But that ‘Right to Choose’ can’t just end at the front door. We will move to a model where long-waiters will be offered the ‘right to choose’, proactively contacted to discuss an offer of alternative provisions.

“That could be the trust next door. It could also be a trust that’s further away – and if it is, your transport and accommodation would be covered. It could be the independent sector.

“Soon, the NHS and the My Planned Care Service will be the gateways to all kinds of information. From the choices you have to the waiting times you might expect – backed by the latest tech matching demand and capacity. It’s an example of how we’re embracing technology and data to drive up performance.”

Looking to the upcoming years, Javid highlighted “the primary way people will interact with health services will be online” and therefore said “I want that app to be the new front door to the NHS”.

To read the speech in full, please click here.