NHSE priorities and operational guidance for 2024/25 emphasises need for “strong digital foundations”

NHS England has released priorities and operational planning guidance for 2024/25, with “strong digital foundations” highlighted as “essential for transformation, supporting access, quality and productivity”.

Regarding the technology investment announced in the spring budget, NHSE states that “robust plans” will be developed in collaboration with systems, and adds that measurement and reporting of productivity “across all sectors” is set to be improved.

The overarching priority set out in the guidance for digital and data is for systems to “continue to deliver on the commitments set out in the strategic plans for the digitisation of services and to support integration and service transformation”.

Key actions are to level up the digital maturity of provider organisations across all sectors; to make use of the latest What Good Looks Like digital maturity assessment; to support national and regional activity within the NHS Research Secure Data Environment Network; and to support and prioritise the implementation of the federated data platform (FDP) “to support elective recovery, care co-ordination (including optimising discharge), population health management and vaccination programmes”.

On the FDP, the guidance shares plans to roll out the platform to at least 70 organisations in 2024/25. Organisations looking to optimise scheduling processes for theatres, waiting list validation and discharge are encouraged to come forward, with NHSE emphasising the need for systems to work with the national FDP team to “align their data architecture and consider the potential of the FDP in planning investments”.

NHSE pledges to continue work to connect services to the NHS App and website, and to champion their use as the digital front door; as well as to “continuously improve core enterprise IT suites to remove the constraints of legacy technology”.

The guidance also states that ICBs are expected to have a system-wide plan for maintaining robust cyber security, “including development of centralised capabilities to provide support across all organisations”.

Regarding the recovery of core services, a priority is to improve access to virtual wards to ensure that utilisation is consistently above 80 percent, with particular focus on frailty, acute respiratory infection, heart failure and children and young people. NHSE states that this work should be done in line with the Getting It Right First Time guidelines and national clinical standards, supported by remote monitoring tech. Relevant services and partners should also “work closely together to increase the proportion of virtual ward beds accessed from home (step up virtual wards) and maximise the impact on system flow”.

On how data can support recovery, the guidance asks systems to maintain clinically-led system coordination centres “to effectively manage risk” with consistent and accurate recording of key metrics. This data should be shared centrally to support delivery of new discharge metrics, and the wider urgent and emergency care recovery plan.

For primary care and community services, the use of “high-quality digital tools” is highlighted as a key action for systems to focus on, with the aim of enhancing digital access, information gathering, navigation, prioritisation and practice allocation of appointments. The utilisation of cloud-based telephony is another priority, with NHSE encouraging systems to make use of its functionality, including the call-back function.

On diagnostics, a key action is for systems to complete the planned digital diagnostics investments, including digital pathology, acceleration of laboratory information management systems and MRI, and improved productivity in pathology and imaging networks.

Other priorities include implementing a framework for NHS action on digital inclusion; embedding digital technology in mental health care pathways; improving the timeliness and quality of mental health activity, outcomes and equality data; and supporting the delivery and use of the reasonable adjustment digital flag as part of efforts to reduce health inequalities for people with learning difficulties and people with autism.

The guidance can be found in full here.

Yesterday we covered the digital content of NHS England’s latest board meeting; read more here.