The NHS Long Term Plan is about creating a digital-first healthcare system. Within it are eight key ‘milestones’ the NHS has set itself to enable such a transformation. Practice Business asked some digital insiders about their views on the ambitious plans for change
Launched in January, the NHS Long Term Plan is an ambitious document that sets out a digitally-connected vision for the future of healthcare; by 2023 every patient should be able to access a ‘digital first’ primary care offer.
Paul Bensley, director at digital healthcare firm X-on, is positive about the report. “Digitally-enabled primary care does not always mean Skyping your GP; it can – and does – mean using digital technology that makes patients’ lives easier,” he says.
Within the Long Term Plan there are eight digital ‘milestones’ that have been set to improve connected care:
- During 2019 the NHS will introduce controls to ensure new systems purchased comply with agreed standards, including those set out in The Future of Healthcare (DHSC, 2017).
- By 2020, five geographical areas will deliver a longitudinal health and care record platform linking NHS and local authority organisations; three additional areas will follow in 2021.
- In 2020/21 people will have access to their care plans, and communications from their care professionals, via the NHS App; the care plan will move to the individual’s ‘local health care record’ across the country over the next five years.
- By summer 2021 there will be 100% compliance with mandated cyber-security standards across all NHS organisations in the health and care system.
- By 2021/22 there will be a chief clinical information officer or chief information officer on the board of every local NHS organisation.
- By 2022/23, the ‘child protection information system’ will be extended to cover all healthcare settings, including general practices.
- By 2023/24 every patient in England will be able to access a digital first primary care offer.
- By 2024 secondary care providers in England – including acute, community and mental health care settings – will be fully-digitised.
“We welcome the move towards more digitally-enabled primary care and we recognise that patients want numerous ways to connect with their GP,” says Paul. Currently, patients prefer to use the ‘phone, but he believes digital consultations will become the ‘norm’.
There needs to be significant support – and investment – to ensure the health system can deliver what Paul calls ‘digital infrastructure that works for all’.
Technology can also play a key role in saving billions in reducing the significant financial cost of medicines, says Darren Nichols, managing director at First Databank (FDB). “The NHS will use digital technology to ensure that best practice is followed, generic medicines are used where possible, and duplication is eliminated,” he says.
This builds upon already solid foundations, Darren believes. “Thousands of GPs and clinical pharmacists in CCGs and community healthcare providers last year reached £100m of savings in the medicines they prescribe by choosing safer, appropriate medicines suggested by FDB’s OptimiseRx – one of the leading medicines optimisation solutions.” The Long Term Plan will accelerate the impact of using technologies within practices, says Darren, who welcomes the acceptance of ‘digital decision support technology’. “Clinicians apply best practice, eliminate unwarranted variation and reduce costs.”
Both Paul and Darren have reacted positively to the Long Term Plan, viewing the ambitious report as laying out a roadmap to a more connected future. Aspiration will need to backed by significant investment if we’re to realise the transformative potential for connected care.