Diagnostics recovery and transformation strategy published for Wales

The Welsh government has published their ‘Diagnostics Recovery and Transformation Strategy for Wales 2023-2025’, setting out the immediate priorities and objectives of the National Diagnostics Board.

Opening the strategy, minister for health and social services Eluned Morgan states that the document is designed to support the system in working together “to map out how we can leverage and coordinate investment and actions for the challenges we face as a system for the people of Wales.” Emphasis is placed upon creating modern, sustainable diagnostic services which take into account new models of care.

The strategy highlights its key ambitions: to improve outcomes; reduce pressure on secondary care; address unmet needs exacerbated by COVID-19; enable people to live longer, healthier lives at home; identify, manage and intervene more rapidly and earlier; create a sustainable and intelligent integrated health system which reduces inequality; and make Wales a great place to live and work.

In order to achieve these goals, NHS Wales will be establishing a dedicated national diagnostic transformation strategy, along with expediting transformation in diagnostic service models, creating additional capacity, moving to a combined approach of diagnostics and providing more directional national leadership.

Digital, research and innovation

With regards digital, the strategy states that NHS Wales will integrate and digitise “all test requesting and reporting via single national platforms”- which will involved reporting across Health Board boundaries and will adopt innovative digital technology solutions including artificial intelligence.

On the theme of ‘research and innovation’, it notes that NHS Wales will look to expand their network of trusted partnerships within academia, industry and Welsh and UK governments in order to optimise investment; improving outcomes and creating a culture of collaboration across organisational boundaries. They will also test emerging technologies and accelerate their scale up across Wales – using research to ask important questions and ultimately improve outcomes.

Data is to play a key role; one of the themes is ‘performance’, with NHS Wales sharing its commitment to being data-driven and evidence-informed at all levels.

Another theme is ‘service transformation’; this will involve implementing national planning for complex imaging provision such as PET-CT, creating national or regional models for fragile services with consolidation of some services to improve safety and efficiency. NHS Wales will also push less complex diagnostics closer to primary and community care, allowing them to increase efficiency through digitisation.

Other themes include ‘people and patients’, with the strategy highlighting the need to tackle inequalities and focus on co-production, and ‘workforce’, which will involve increasing the training pipeline of diagnostic specialists and adopting the Imaging Academy model to support wider development. In this area, NHS Wales also notes that remote working will be an embedded part of their diagnostics future, as they plan to “actively pursue hybrid working and reporting from home.”

The final three themes focus on ‘commissioning and procurement’, ‘quality and safety’ and ‘estates’. Here, the strategy shares planned actions such as developing national diagnostic service specifications, ensuring that all services gain formal accreditation and investing in the upgrading of services in order to drive efficiency and innovation.

Diagnostic vision

The overall diagnostic vision is to improve the lives of everyone through innovation, collaboration and better public services. The Diagnostic Transformation Strategy is planned to be a key enabler for this and will interface with the clinical networks as they develop. The document describes how the strategy will “bring together existing programmes of work in Wales, into one portfolio, to enable a coordinated approach”.

NHS Wales notes that some building blocks are already in place to support the next phase of their diagnostic development, including the adoption and roll-out of digital cellular pathology; procurement of an end-to-end diagnostic radiology system; and investment in the National Imaging Academy.

The strategy shares a number of objectives to support the vision, including intention to transform services and move beyond traditional boundaries, be informed by evidence and data, and create an environment where research and innovation improves outcomes and experiences and success is scaled.

It goes on to share that the programme will support national networks for digital in order to “provide a sharp professional focus on delivery and excellence”, in addition to working with networks for endoscopy, imaging, genomics, cardio-respiratory, healthcare science and pathology.

If you would like to read more about NHS Wales diagnostic strategy, please click here.