We recently covered the Plan for Patients from newly appointed Health and Care Secretary Thérèse Coffey, which outlines measures to tackle “the priorities that matter the most to patients”. You can read our coverage of the plan here.
To explore thoughts and reflections from across the health tech industry, we put out a call for comment in response to the following questions:
What are your thoughts on the new plan? How does it contribute to a positive digital health future for patients? Where do you think digital is best placed to support patients?
We heard from a wide range of individuals sharing a variety of responses. Here, we’ll examine what they had to say.
Rob Verheul, CEO for Graphite Digital, commented that “there are many things to like about the plans — particularly the apparent patient-centric approach. The government has clearly looked at the patient journey and the data behind it, and appears to be starting by tackling the areas which leave the patients most dissatisfied today, and responding to people’s desire to take greater control of their health outcomes by equipping them with information about their options. In doing this, the responsibility for the care pathways will be shared more between healthcare provider and patient.”
Rob noted that the initiatives will not be easy to implement: “With the complexities including data portability and user experience design for the general public, as well as cost, we can see it taking a long time to make meaningful progress on these objectives.” He added that managing patient expectations around digital channels will also be important and concluded, “If the plan is implemented well, the future is very positive for patients, but there are a number of things the government will need to consider, including data quality, cost, pressure on health services and the behaviour of the patients that use them.”
Dr Peter Fish, CEO of Mendelian, said that it was great to see the new plan promise to support the NHS to deliver care “more than ever through digital technology”, but pointed out that the plan does not “address the need for investment in technological infrastructure to increase efficiencies that will reduce the backlog, or the need for more targeted, personalised care to ultimately improve and save more lives.”
Peter added: “For ICSs to really meet expectations in transforming healthcare, we must see a greater focus on rapidly expanding digitally-supported diagnoses and implementing clinical decision-support tools in primary care – across patient interaction, diagnosis, management and referrals.”
Although it is good that the plan centres on patient experience, it needs a stronger focus on effective care coordination support for staff, according to Elliott Engers, CEO at Infinity Health. “For too long staff have had no option but to use tools that the very first NHS staff used – pens, paper, in-person meetings – and for which there are more efficient and safer alternatives. Care coordination and communication solutions connect different parts of the system together, making many of the focus areas – like remote monitoring and waiting list management – as efficient as possible. For example, the right technology can flag unusual remote monitoring data instead of it only being picked up during manual reviews. It can automatically send patients online assessment forms at set intervals so they aren’t waiting for a follow-up appointment with no contact for many months. Patients are kept safer whilst clinicians feel secure in the knowledge that they can focus on care.
For Altera, General Manager UK & Ireland Paula Ridd said: “No single care setting should operate in isolation, so it was reassuring to see the Secretary of State refer to ‘whole urgent care pathway’ improvements with reference to supporting ambulance services to operate more effectively.” Paula commented on the lack of joined-up information which can lead to a high number of patients taken to hospital when they do not need to be, “which has a staggering impact on patient outcomes as well as causing issues like we’re seeing with ambulance handovers.
“Capacity and funding constraints in community and social care delay the discharge of some of these patients, which is a separate issue that needs addressing, and the redirected discharge funding will hopefully help. That said, poor patient flow in acute settings also has a significant impact. Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust is one organisation that’s been recognised for its work to improve patient flow by introducing a system-wide dashboard, accessible by all care settings in the ICS. All necessary staff have access to real-time data which enables them to progress the patient treatment pathway, reduce length of stay and expedite discharge to the most appropriate destination.
“It has also helped to improve patient triage from ambulances to emergency departments as paramedics can access patient records via the dashboard from care homes and other community settings. The technology and appetite to deploy exists, so my hope is that the right funding is made available to enable more trusts to replicate the success of those such as Gloucestershire.”
Paul Landau, CEO at Careology was also pleased to see the mention of joined-up data and digital tools to increase choice and productivity. “However, we would have liked the plan to have explicitly addressed the significant challenges within the cancer sector and to signal real intent to give cancer care teams the support they urgently need to reduce the unprecedented backlog of people awaiting treatment,” he said.
“Our ask is that the government encourages broad adoption of effective digital tools that improve engagement between patients and care teams so that clinical resources can be prioritised more effectively and build much needed capacity in the system. Empowering patients to better understand and manage key elements of their treatment away from the hospital and confidently engage with their care team has the potential to free up thousands of hours of clinical time and improve patient experience.”
Dr Owain Rhys Hughes, surgeon, CEO and founder of Cinapsis, noted that whilst the plan is right to prioritise access to primary care, “its suggested introduction of league table style performance data falls wide of the mark. Rather than pitting services against one another, we should be helping them to collaborate and work more closely on patient care. Outdated digital tools and the organisational siloes they create currently make this difficult; clinicians are often reliant on convoluted email chains and busy phone lines to connect with other services, and data sharing requires lengthy manual input and transfer.
“What is needed is smarter, interoperable digital tools which streamline this communication and allow data to be securely, automatically shared between the different digital systems already in use. This will not only enable closer collaboration between primary and secondary care – making it easier to access specialist advice and streamlining the referral process – but will also help clinicians triage patients more effectively to a wider number of services across their trust or ICS. We should not be calling out practices in isolation, but rather supporting them with the tools to collaborate and strengthen service delivery together.”
For Matthew Riley, Head of Informatics at Here, the plan recognises the importance of digital linking across the health and care system, particularly between acute and social care, but much of it is open to interpretation.”Patient empowerment makes sense as long as viable and empowering choices are available,” he said. “For example, does a primary care cloud telephony solution mean you have more chance of getting through to someone if the real issue is that the GP practice is struggling to balance its workload? Using digital to work smarter makes the most sense in that environment – for example, by improving workflow within the practice, which can release significant amounts of GP time.”
Matthew continued, “I think there is also a sense in the plan of wanting to use data to performance manage the system rather than fix it. A ‘backlog’ is a group of people with different personal situations, urgency, and preferences. If backlog management means measuring the length of the queue, then it misses the opportunity to understand the people in it and how best to help them. True patient empowerment goes far beyond ranking local NHS services and a countdown to treatment – digital can help patients to self-management their care through apps, websites, and emails and to manage pain while waiting for treatment. The same could be said about measuring access to GP appointments (such as the 2-week target); do we just measure this or provide practices with the tools to build demand and capacity models that make more profound changes?”
On where digital is best placed to support patients, Matthew said, “In simple terms, the imbalance between the demand for services and the capacity to deliver causes challenges for the NHS. So, it seems like the best use of digital will likely tackle at least one of these two factors and get under the skin of what is needed. For example, using data dashboards within primary care to help understand demand and capacity and effectively target resources.”
NHS workforce expert and CEO of Patchwork Health Dr Anas Nader commented that it is great to see dedication applied to tackling the current staffing crisis, but noted that the plan seems to focus solely on employing more staff rather than looking to improve retention of current staff. “While recruitment is certainly an important step towards tackling staff shortages, without an equal focus on retaining our current dedicated staff, we risk sending new recruits into the same broken system,” said Anas.
“Digital innovation has a huge role to play in helping turn this around. By providing digital tools that enable more sustainable workforce planning, clearer data oversight, and greater flexibility, we can transform the way staffing is organised and accessed across the NHS. For managers, this means reducing the admin burden involved in workforce planning and handing them the insights that will support them in planning staffing more intuitively. For clinicians, it means providing more flexibility over when and where they work in line with personal commitments and opening the door to wider professional opportunities. A plan that leads with retention is key to successfully solving the NHS staffing crisis, and this must be driven by digital innovation.”
Chris Barker, Chief Executive Officer of Spirit Health, welcomed the plan’s intention to inform and empower patients to make decisions on their own care. “A thriving digital health sector needs to ensure people and patients along with healthcare professionals are at the centre as services develop. Its ability to ensure patients are in the right setting to sport their healthcare needs, whilst providing flexible workforce support, is critical to improving patient outcomes which is at the core of what digital health delivers.”
He added that it is reassuring to see previous commitments such as the proposed increase in nursing recruitment still featured. “With targets of this kind firmly in the plan, the clear focus should be on how the government intends to deliver on such commitments and equally on how it addresses key challenges within the NHS to ease the current bottlenecks in ambulance, elective and emergency care.”
Chris noted that the absence of detail in the plan has “undoubtedly made for frustrating reading among clinicians” and said that the “lack of clear direction on how the government will meet its heavily repeated targets makes it unclear how this plan will make a meaningful difference. Worse still, it potentially places additional pressure on a healthcare sector preparing for a difficult winter.” Ultimately, he said that patient focus must remain “an important part of the overall digital health equation. The government’s ability to align this with a long-term workforce planning strategy, is critical to the success of healthcare services and the digital health sector moving forwards.”
For Dr Mark Ratnarajah, UK managing director C2-Ai and practising paediatrician, the plan’s commitment to prioritise patients on waiting lists with greatest need is “specifically interesting”, along with the intent to use joined-up data and digital tools to improve operational productivity and patient choice.
“In driving forward these ambitions, the government already has exemplars in the NHS from which it could learn a great deal,” commented Mark. “For example, we have seen first-hand the impact achieved by pioneering trusts that have used AI-backed decision support to help surgeons prioritise patients for surgery, based risk stratification and clinical need. Those trusts have increased operating capacity, improved waiting times, and prioritised surgery in a safer and equitable way, whilst saving thousands of hours of planning time for busy surgeons. And they are better able to treat patients in appropriate settings and make informed decisions with patients. Their achievements are starting to spread with dozens of trusts adopting the approach.
“Digital can also support patients impacted by the backlog by helping them to wait well. We are seeing this in action now in the NHS – and ministers may wish to examine where technology is being used to target patients who require additional support to help prevent deterioration and even avoidable mortality, as people wait for important treatment. Such use of technology could achieve even greater impact if expanded ahead of winter pressures.”
Mark concluded: “The backlog is only one of several important areas flagged in the plan, but technology applied effectively can and is having an impact for patients.”
Matt Honeyman, Policy Lead at Accurx, commented that given the scale of health and social care’s current crisis, the new plan “barely scratches the surface”, but added that the plan’s discussion on introducing digital tools and improving IT systems to ease administrative burdens is “a very welcome goal”.
He noted that digital tools can help staff save “thousands of hours when communicating with patients – be it inviting them to book a vaccination, digitally triaging patients, sharing patient records or simply automating appointment reminders.”
Matt added: “There’s more that can be done across the system to ease the pressure on healthcare teams and help them to empower patients, such as enabling invited self service appointment bookings. With incoming winter pressures, we want to see communication given the same weight as other health policy priorities, so patients have better routes to get the help they need, and stay informed about their care.”
The directives within the plan fall into two categories, observed Tobias Alpsten, CEO and founder of iPLATO and myGP. The first category contains ideas that are already being implemented, such as creating data dashboards and publishing data to drive better system performance. These initiatives have not always been successful, Tobias noted, raising the example of smartphone apps built to support A&E departments by displaying their waiting times. “The hope was that people in the need of urgent care would download a smartphone app and make an informed decision as to whether they truly needed A&E… instead, these apps had no users and wasted colossal amount of money.”
The secondary category, he said, contains ideas that the NHS has traditionally rejected. “Most will read the statement ‘We will also inform patients on alternative pathways for their own care and reducing the need to use the NHS at all’ to open the door for signposting to private healthcare. And, although we know that the NHS has limitations in what it can do and that private healthcare has a role to play, it isn’t something that the service has acknowledged in the past and is unlikely to generate a positive response from a workforce that is already on the warpath.”
Steve Brain, Executive Director, Health and Care at Civica, shared his view that the plan is a “positive step forward for patients, with digital technology at its heart.”
Steve said: “Secure sharing of patient data to support the best clinical outcomes for both individual patients and the wider population is crucial and the aim for all NHS trusts to have electronic patient records in place by 2025 is a key step in ensuring this.
“Using high quality data platforms, clinicians will have an integrated view of each patient increasing safety and responsiveness, with medical care tailored to each patient’s needs. Trust managers will be better equipped to manage waiting lists and improve use of hospital resources from beds to theatre use and medication
“Improved digital systems will also help increase staff engagement by saving time and increasing efficiency, ultimately helping to build a more motivated workforce.”
Robert Miller, CEO at Wellbeing Software, also views the plan as making progress: “We see the plan as a significant step towards enabling patients to make informed decisions regarding their health and providing a much-needed focus on community based preventative services. The plan highlights the urgency of substantial investment in the areas of greatest need and recognising the role of digital health technology and data to support streamlining clinical workflows and improving patient outcomes. Making primary and secondary care performance more transparent is a key aspect of the plan, however it will require better quality data and analytics to assist performance management and benchmarking.
“We know high quality digital platforms that improve efficiency and effectiveness are vital, so it’s heartening to see the government recognise how important digital systems are in ensuring the NHS can tackle heavy backlogs exacerbated by the pandemic. Patients will also benefit from the continued commitment to the establishment of community diagnostic centres. Providing early diagnosis, essential to people receiving the care they need, where they need it, at the right time for them – better connected diagnostic services are one of the most effective ways this can be delivered.”
Robert concluded: “Digital can no longer be considered an optional or desirable extra, it must support every step of the clinical and patient pathway. Healthcare practitioners in all care settings need to be supported by technology and data to efficiently deliver safe and effective patient care. Digital is key to patients receiving more personalised, proactive and effective healthcare where and when they need it. The focus on empowering patients in decision-making is overdue and very welcome, however this can only be delivered with accurate data and intelligent integration of information that reflects the entire patient journey.”
We also heard from Serena Hadi, Head of Service at Antser, who said: “We are delighted that the DHSC is embracing digital and technology to support the NHS” through the plan, and commented on how technology such as virtual reality can support health and care. “We hope to see such innovative practice used in the education and training requirements of the forthcoming long-term workforce plan.”
Andy Haywood, former CIO and Digital Health Managing Consultant for Channel 3 Consulting, noted that although the plan discusses how patients will be empowered by transparent data around the performance of local services, “many of the core issues around patient choice come from knowing what the most appropriate services are for their needs. Additionally, the NHS as a whole needs to re-examine the pathways it provides to patients to ensure they’re directed to the most appropriate care in the most appropriate setting.”
Commenting on ambulance service performance, Andy said: “Ambulance services are the canary for the wider system. Demand is often driven by a lack of access to effective social, primary and community care, as well as a lack of effective patient data to manage risk and prevent conveyance to hospital. Capacity is stretched by the catastrophic loss of ambulance availability to delays outside of hospital, currently running at thousands of hours per week. The measures articulated in the plan were already in train before the new government came to power and don’t go anywhere far enough to address the growing crisis in urgent and emergency care. Unless the system is redesigned to prevent conveyance to hospital in the first place for those that don’t need it and to improve the discharge of patients into the community to improve hospital flow, measures like extra ambulances and additional call handlers will simply increase the size of the queue.”
The plan has potential to contribute to a positive digital health future for patients, said Antoine Lever, Co-Founder of babblevoice, but it needs to take a nuanced approach. “We are wholly supportive with the plan’s aim to improve access by patients to practices via telephone for appointments and advice. That said, focusing exclusively on the number of phone lines is too simplistic,” Antoine said. “If you commission a thousand extra phone lines, admittedly a thousand less patients will hear the engaged tone, but unless you have also recruited a thousand more reception staff.”
He noted that the plan “could enable those patients willing to use technology to access services via for example, an app; while those patients unwilling or unable to use technology have quick and convenient service on the telephone.”
Liam Hunn, Director of Account Management and Projects at Healthcare Gateway, commented, “we believe digital plays a crucial role in improving health and care for all; the push for fully digitised social care records will enable a greater coordination of care and advancing data sharing to provide clinicians with the right information at the right time is key to ensuring that patients receive safer, faster care.”
“We commend the plan’s focus on empowering patients through data and would highlight that the high-quality data platforms referenced are especially suited to support chronic conditions, which currently account for 70 percent of total health and social care expenditure,” said Paul McGinness, Chief Executive at Lenus Health. “Providing more proactive treatment requires care teams to have access to a patient’s health indicators between scheduled appointments.” He noted that wearables and at-home devices have been evidenced to “dramatically reduce hospital admissions and bed days”.
“Furthermore, data platforms enabling remote monitoring can also simultaneously increase capacity, another aim of the plan, through tech-enabled virtual wards. This means patients who would otherwise require extended hospital stays can be looked after from their home.”
Finally, Paul said, “we’d highlight that chronic conditions are most prevalent and often most severe in lower socio-economic groups. Improving their management using a high-quality data platform presents an excellent opportunity to address health inequalities and variation in care, while reducing acute demands and increasing capacity.”
For X-on, Marketing Director Paul Heeren said that the push towards digital technology is “integral” to addressing the plan’s ambitions. Paul commented on the plan’s acknowledgement that communications need to be included in the move to digital: “The move from legacy in-house to cloud-based GP telephony has been accelerating in recent years as practices realise the limitations of fixed lines and difficult-to-upgrade systems, particularly highlighted by the advent of the COVID outbreak… cloud telephony brings the various forms of communication together – phone, video, SMS, photos, online – all controllable from the patient record and with all contact recorded. Most importantly the patient is provided with a vastly improved. and consistent experience; one of the main tenets of the plan.”
“Empowering patients by providing them with access to more digital services and information derived from data insights, such as being transparent about treatment waiting lists, by specialism and provider, can only be a positive step for patients and the NHS,” said Paul Johnson, CEO of Radar Healthcare. “This latest policy will run alongside the Long-Term Plan and is clearly focused on addressing some of the most pressing NHS pain points – such as a lack of access to NHS dentistry and General Practice, long ambulance delays and lengthy treatment waiting lists.
“But it’s important that we don’t lose sight that the NHS digital transformation needs to help alleviate pressures both reactively and proactively, and not just at the point of access. The implementation of the new Patient Safety Incident Response Framework in 2023 has a strong focus on engaging and involving patients, families and staff – this can only be another positive step change for the future.”
Considering where digital can support patients, Paul added: “There isn’t a part of the healthcare system where digital adoption can’t play a vital role in supporting patients. But for me, the most exciting area is the work being done within preventative care.” He called the use of data insight a “game-changer” and said: “By analysing data across the entire health ecosystem there is potential to improve patient experience, safety and ultimately deliver positive health outcomes. Data has a big role to play in empowering patients to take control of their own health. We’re already seeing this through incentive-led health insurance, but it could be rolled out further. Giving people the tools to manage their own health and prevent illnesses could help to level the health inequalities we see today.”
“Much of Therese Coffey’s new plan talks about prioritisation, and productivity as things to be improved as the system wrestles with the crippling backlog. The foundation to achieving both of these is information, for clinicians, but for patients too,” commented Andy Meiner, Chief Revenue Officer at ReStart.
“It was pleasing to see that the Secretary of State reinforced the need for high quality data platforms, if better productivity is to be achieved. While she reiterated the target for all trusts to have electronic patient records in place by 2025, the plan didn’t mention the importance of joining up systems, which is going to be vital if data-driven insight is going to be used to deliver better care. With much talk about a new national federated data platform and managed convergence of systems being pushed upon ICSs, it is vital that focus remains on using open technology that enables the sharing of information that care teams of different specialisms need to provide the most efficient care.”
Mark England, CEO at HN, said that it is “positive to see prevention and primary care highlighted as key focus areas for the new Health and Social Care Secretary, but overall, this NHS plan doesn’t go nearly far enough in resolving the deep-rooted issues facing the sector.
“The plans the new Secretary of State has put in place around GP appointments will have little impact on fixing the problems that general practice is facing. Instead, it has to shift to a greater focus on proactive prevention, targeted by prediction. We need to move away from a reactive model and instead use real-time data to highlight those with rising risk, often with unmet health needs.”
In addition, Mark said, “The rapid rise in people living with multiple diseases poses a fundamental challenge to the NHS. These patients benefit from more proactive support, including health coaching – supporting them to self-manage their health conditions. Moving towards an anticipatory care model in primary care could make a profound difference. We have access to a large highly motivated workforce which will only take months to train – the patients themselves.”
The plan is “light on detail”, said Tom Whicher, CEO at DrDoctor, but it is “encouraging to see recommitments to big issues in the government’s Plan for Patients, including tackling the backlog, expanding remote monitoring and creating more capacity through virtual wards, especially as we face increased pressures in the NHS over winter.
“But as is often the case, the plan doesn’t go far enough. There’s only seven mentions of digital throughout the whole document, and given that technology should underpin many of the key ambitions in this plan, like expanding access through online care coordination platforms, it feels like a massive oversight. There’s no mention of the value of digital patient-initiated follow-ups to tackle the backlog, despite it being a proven method to validate and stratify waiting lists and prioritise the sickest people, while giving more flexibility to staff and patients around care. When NHS organisations embrace a digital-first approach, amazing things can happen – patient-centred software like ours has the ability to increase clinical capacity by releasing 516,805 appointments per week across the NHS.”
However, he added, he welcomed a “refreshed commitment to expand capacity across the NHS by the equivalent of 7,000 beds. While the plan doesn’t explicitly mention virtual wards, it does focus on boosting treatment in patients’ homes. We are at a crossroads in the development of virtual wards in the NHS – there’s been a huge boom in home-care during the pandemic, which has the potential to transform the healthcare system. However, as commitments to enhance virtual wards are realised, it’s important that we build on existing models, rather than create entirely new propositions – which will waste time and money that we simply don’t have.”
For Generated Health, Product Manager Roxanne Balfe described a positive digital health future for patients as one that “will improve patient choice, empower patients and staff, and better the delivery of care and patient outcomes.”
In their work, Generated Health has seen innovations “make care more accessible, supporting personalisation and and prevention… self-management and intelligent behavioural health technologies give people the skills and support to activate their behaviour and make decisions to better health. Through prevention and sustained behaviour change this means patients can manage their health better at home, with less appointments needed at their local GP, and reducing health deterioration in the first place. This speaks to various aspects of Coffey’s plan, reducing the burden on wait times through reducing the need for appointments, empowering patients to manage their own health, and significantly freeing up HCP time.”
The announcement of £500 million in additional funding to speed up the safe discharge of patients and support the care workforce is “a step in the right direction,” Roxanne said, but “there is little mention of how digital technology can support this transition despite the obvious benefits of such technology in areas such as remote monitoring and step-down care, as well as community rehabilitation, recovery, and self-management.”
Roxanne noted how feedback from those within the NHS indicates that although primary care has rapidly implemented improved front door communication systems and remote monitoring technology, which has supported faster, convenient access to healthcare, “feedback from those working within the NHS is that this can often result in multiple information and data points arriving at their front door. Many practices are responding with team transformation, and workforce diversification, but fundamentally demand and workload continues to increase.”
She continued, “Getting these technologies in practice whilst clinical teams are so busy requires investment, and time. NHSE needs to ring fence outcome specific funding technology on a recurring basis. ICBs need to have teams to support practice to try new ways of working and provide evaluation that is independent and credible. Successful technology needs a pathway to rapid scale, preferably at ICB level, otherwise we are just tinkering around the edges, and will not see immediate benefits, nor true population health transformation for decades to come.”
Ultimately, Roxanne said, “Technology can deliver massive efficiencies in the care pathway, removing unnecessary manual processes in selecting the right patients, contacting them, bringing them in to the right appointments with the right people at the right time.” But it should “never replace the human interaction element of healthcare.” She noted that the Secretary of State and the NHS “have a number of challenges ahead of them to deliver their plan” and added that the plan for patients “needs the relevant funding in place at ICB level to deliver on its aims, as well as fully realise the value of digital technologies in supporting both newer initiatives as well as the NHS Long Term Plan.”
Craig Oates, Managing Director of Doctrin, said: “We all recognise that the NHS is currently facing an unprecedented level of pressure and demand, with far too many clinical colleagues leaving the profession and levels of patient frustration at an all-time high. With this in mind, we welcome the commitment in the government’s Plan for Patients to make more time available for appointments by introducing digital tools and easing administrative burdens by upgrading IT systems. However, this isn’t a new commitment and existing barriers that practices face when rolling out new tech, such as a lack of digital skills among staff and patients, need to be a priority before major digital transformation can take place. We must acknowledge that change needs to be driven from the top to support staff with the transformation of care through the right training and incentives.
“Transforming how we deliver care in the NHS is a team game with patients utilising digital tools where possible so that clinicians can deliver safe and effective treatment through the correct care pathways. As suppliers, we also need to play our part to ensure we offer the latest generation of tools and solutions to enable patients and caregivers to fully embrace digi-physical care.”
He noted that the plan is not supposed to sure all challenges facing primary care, but said that it is still “vague – and there needs to be a focus on the details to ensure we build a digital primary care model fit for the future.”
The identification of social care services as one of the four priorities within the plan is “reassuring”, said Steve Sawyer, Managing Director at Access Health and Social Care. “With a historic imbalance of funding between health and care, and the care workforce facing unprecedented pressures due to retention and recruitment challenges, the additional £500 million discharge fund (albeit not new money) and national recruitment campaign are welcomed. However, it won’t go far enough in terms of delivering tangible benefits for patients over the coming years.
“It’s why the plan’s re-commitment to previous government policies, particularly scaling up the use of technology to free up carers’ time, will be vital in addressing the capacity concerns amongst service providers. And by levelling-up digital maturity across the care continuum, it will be possible to achieve the 2024 digital care record targets and create an integrated ecosystem for patients.”
Whilst it is positive to see the plan confirm other commitments such as the delivery of the care cap, Steve continued, “it feels like a missed opportunity to have not reviewed the October 2023 timeline in light of growing concerns amongst local authorities – including the trailblazers – about the achievability of such significant changes without further guidance and financial support from the government for implementing such a major change.”
Dr Richard Pratt, Clinical Director at Eva Health Technologies, offered his view: “Digital offers a diverse range of tools that can help amplify the impact of humans in delivering healthcare. To address the gap between needs and provision, we need both better digital solutions and more healthcare workers.” Continuity of information is a key theme. It is only with elegant, well-designed electronic health records that we can coordinate the complex care of patients across a range of settings in health and social care. Care pathways have been fundamentally revised during COVID, with closer collaboration often between primary, community and secondary care, as well as with our colleagues in social care. Not only can patients be anywhere, but so can clinicians. We need records that can match the flexibility, complexity and pace of the rest of our lives.”
Richard said that the pragmatism in the plan is welcome and cites some high impact, low complexity measure such as cloud telephony which he called “transformative in my own GP practice”.
He added: “Healthcare is based on close collaboration, and clear communication between healthcare workers and patients. Waiting for care can understandably layer additional anxiety and uncertainty at an already challenging time for patients and their families. The proposed dashboards for patients and healthcare workers will be a huge help. Whether waiting for a Category 1 emergency ambulance or an elective hip replacement, knowing where we are and what to expect next helps us grapple with the challenges of illness. In so doing, patients are able to navigate their health and illness journeys with more dignity and compassion.”
Many thanks to everyone who shared their time and thoughts.