NHS England December board focuses on operational, financial, digital primary care and Federated Data Platform

The NHS England board met on 5 December to discuss operational and financial performance, to provide an update on the Federated Data Platform, and the role of tech in the delivery of the primary care access recovery plan.

During the board’s meeting, Dame Emily Lawson, interim chief operating officer, offered an update on operational performance, highlighting pressures on emergency departments “with 2.2 million A&E attendances, the busiest October on record”, representing an increase of 1.4% compared to October 2022. However, “the proportion of patients attending A&E who were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours remained above last year, at 70.2% compared to 69.5%.”

It was noted that 6.5 million people are on waiting lists, with “the total number of appointments and treatments currently on the waiting list being 7.77 million”.

The board was also informed of the work being done with systems to “develop a new metric that records and measures the time between a patient’s discharge ready date and their actual date of discharge”, with the dataset being published for the first time this month. Although still under development, with submissions from 53.3 percent of trusts “meting the required data quality and compliance”; Emily noted that this signified an “important step towards a better understanding of why and where discharge delays are occurring”.

It was noted that demand for cancer services “continued at record levels in September with the number of urgent suspected cancer referrals at 130% of pre-pandemic levels”.

Emily highlighted the role of the NHS App in “empowering patients to manage their own health” and providing self-referral pathways and access to more services from community pharmacy. On genomics, the update also highlighted the role of 8 approved NHS Genomic Networks of Excellence in generating evidence and models of adoption for new technology and testing.

Primary care access recovery

Amanda Doyle, national director for primary care and community services, also highlighted the role of tech in her delivery update on the primary care access recovery plan. Amanda discussed the challenging nature of delivering the Pharmacy First service, due to “changes needed in digital infrastructure”, stating that NHS England is working with suppliers to support a January implementation.

She also revealed that 83% of practices are now using digital telephony, and that a new digital procurement framework is expected in January 2024 to support practices in accessing “high quality online consultation, messaging and booking tools”.

For the online patient registration service, 2,000 practices are said to be using this service. Early findings from the National General Practice Improvement Programme include a 20% drop in practice call wait times and a 50% reduction in abandoned calls, from the participating cohort.

Federated Data Platform

Finally, Ming Tang, chief data and analytics officer, offered an update on the Federated Data Platform and associated services, with Palantir Technologies leading a consortium of providers being awarded the contract in November, and a contract for Privacy Enhancing Technology being awarded to IQVIA. Ming shared that plans are “well advanced” with suppliers to transition products from the National Data Platform, and that plans are also underway for the development of new FDP products from summer 2024.

Alongside the core platform, Ming notes “key activities” upcoming across information governance, security, architecture, data engineering, and service management, to “ensure a robust and successful delivery”. After the transition is made, “successfully piloted products” will be rolled-out to new trusts adopting the platform across England, focusing on priority areas including care coordination and virtual wards.

To read the board papers in full, please click here.

NHS England’s October board papers highlighted the role of digital, data and technology in a number of key areas including tackling health inequalities in caring for people with learning disabilities and autism, accelerating genomics research and improving safety in maternity care.

On capacity, NHS England published the latest batch of information on virtual ward services in each integrated care board in England and at national level, with the data indicating that three ICBs are currently meeting the target for services to include 40-50 virtual ward beds per 100,000 adults by the end of this year.