Digital health and social care

June 29, 2022

The Government has published its latest plan for digital health and social care, which will aim to make the system fit for the 21st century.

The plan sets out the Government’s vision for transforming health and care with digital technology – which will work towards giving patients access to quicker and more effective care and promises to save the health and care systems time and money.

The plan for digital health and social care also sets out how Government will aim to improve access to information for people and their care teams through the NHS App and – targeting faster, more personalised treatment. This includes bringing information together into the App and enabling people to view and manage hospital appointments, have virtual consultations and see notifications from their GP.

In addition, the plan for digital health and social care outlines the acceleration of the use of digital technology across the NHS and social care to target improved efficiency and free up frontline workers’ time, with the intention of reducing the COVID-19 backlogs. By increasing the availability of remote monitoring – where patients can use technology to keep an eye on their condition from home – Government hopes that a further 500,000 people will be better supported by March 2023.

Government understands that over 280,000 people have already used remote monitoring at home and in care homes for long-term conditions in the last year, freeing up hospital beds and saving clinicians’ time. This has resulted in improvements in patient outcomes – with problems picked up earlier, shorter stays in hospital and fewer admissions in the first place, Government reports.

£2bn has been earmarked from the Spending Review to help digitise the NHS and social care sector, and according to Government, the plan for digital health and social care will help achieve that aim by rolling out electronic patient records in the NHS to drive efficiency which, in turn, will release billions of pounds back to the NHS.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said, 'We are embarking on a radical programme of modernisation that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048 – not 1948, when it was first established.

'This plan builds on our Data Strategy to revolutionise digital health and care, which will enable patients to manage hospital appointments from the NHS App and take more control of their own care at home, picking up problems sooner and seeking help earlier.

'Ensuring more personalisation and better join up of the system will benefit patients, free up clinician time, and help us to bust the COVID-19 backlogs.'

Professor Vic Rayner, Chief Executive at the National Care Forum said, 'I welcome the focus the Government has on supporting digital transformation across the social care sector. There are many opportunities that digital can offer plan brings together a range of initiatives, setting out a pathway that talks ambitiously of a future where digital supports people and communities to live the lives they want. It is vital that this programme of change continues to listen, adapt and work with the care sector so that the opportunities it presents are available for all.'

Dr Layla McCay, Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation, said, 'NHS leaders welcome the digital health and care strategy and see it as an important step in joining up health and social care records digitally under one roof. This is essential for enabling better system working and will allow vital data to be shared more widely, helping staff to deliver better care for patients.

'The plan presents an exciting opportunity not only to expand access to care via digital channels, but to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based technologies that will help make care more preventative, personalised and empowering for patients.

'The task ahead will be challenging and must be done carefully not to exacerbate inequality. It’s important that investment in IT infrastructure for the NHS continues and that systems are supported to implement these changes as they work hard to tackle the care backlogs. We hope that the forthcoming digital workforce strategy will help address recruitment and retention issues whilst making the NHS an attractive place to work for digital professionals.'

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said, 'Digital technology has great potential to support those who draw on care services, and the launch of the digital health and social care plan is a positive step in enabling people to live the lives they want.

'We look forward to working with NHS to ensure digital transformation occurs in parallel across both social care and health. Only by ensuring that care has an equal footing with health are we able to achieve the best outcomes for people and communities.'

Visit GOV.UK to read the plan for digital health and social care policy paper in full.

In other news, councils in England have responded to a Local Government Association survey saying that they do not have confidence that the funding for social care reforms is sufficient.

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