NHSE board discusses plans to improve productivity with the NHS to “embrace 21st century tech”

The NHS board meeting last week focused on a number of areas, including productivity in the NHS and the potential of technology to support this; operational actions for the second year of the primary care access recovery plan; and a review of progress in 2023/24 around equality, including achievements around digital.

Regarding productivity in the NHS, a report was shared exploring the factors behind perceived lower productivity and highlighting how technology could play a role in supporting improvements. NHSE shares that research has been undertaken to help understand what has happened around productivity during and since the pandemic and states, “The drivers of what we observe in data are complex.” They include key factors such as “more complex and acute” population needs according to data analysis; reduced flow through the urgent and emergency care pathway and across the system; and staff burnout coupled with lower engagement.

A plan is reportedly in development to improve productivity, with focus to be placed on health as opposed to illness; as part of this, NHSE pledges to invest in preventative care such as secondary prevention on modifiable risk factors, citing the example of digital weight management programmes.

The plan will also see a focus on the NHS “embracing 21st century technology” – here, NHSE highlights a need to invest in IT systems “that work well for both staff and patients”. This should include putting technology in patients’ hands to improve access and experience; using data to identify opportunities for improvement; and taking opportunities to adopt new technologies.

“For staff it means less time spent chasing patient data, or waiting for their technology to work – whether the most basic tool, or innovative product,” NHSE states.

A need to modernise NHSE facilities is also noted, with the report referring to this as a “critical dependency” and citing a need to address the maintenance backlog in order to reduce disruption.

In addition, an operational performance update was provided to the board, including an update around primary care and community health services. With reference to the primary care access recovery plan published last year, NHSE notes that delivery actions for year two have been developed through work with ICBs across the region, and will include embedding digital telephony as well as increasing prospective records access and “making more progress on primary and secondary care interface”.

For care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, NHSE states that the Reasonable Adjustment Digital Flag is now mandated for use by all publicly-funded health and social care organisations, with e-learning launched to support staff.

With regards to screening and vaccinations, NHSE provides an update on activity around the NHS diabetic eye screening programme, describing how the programme has “begun to plan for the implementation of optical coherence tomography within the digital surveillance pathway” from October, with the aim of reducing the number of referrals to hospital eye services.

The board also heard a report on the completion of the ‘new NHS England programme’, summarising the progress to date within the NHS as informed by the NHS Operating Framework and NHS Long Term Plan. Here, NHSE states: “A joined-up approach to digitally enabled transformation has been realised by bringing together digital, policy and system oversight expertise. The benefits of this approach are clear in our work to secure additional investment in technology, which will allow the NHS to drive digital improvements, releasing time to spend with patients and enable joined up care across services.”

On progress made around equality in 2023/24, the board heard that digital patient self-management information on long COVID “had over 20 million views”; and that a portal and dashboard was developed to collect and monitor data on equity of access. NHSE also notes that an “inclusive digital healthcare” framework was published.

Click here to access the May 2024 board papers in full.

HTN covered NHSE’s last board meeting here, with discussion emphasising the need to digitally support the workforce and highlighting increased digital maturity as a priority over the next two years.

In February we also highlighted the board’s discussion of the NHS digital portfolio; click here to read more.