Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has said that NHS digital healthcare advancements have been stalled by ‘legacy issues’, and has introduced new plans designed to create better relationships between clinicians and patients.
Speaking at the King’s Fund Digital Health and Care Congress the MP explained that the NHS infrastructure is “locked in to something that was cutting-edge when [he] was at university.”
“There is no technical reason why NHS systems can’t work in the same way,” he said, calling the problem “organisational, not technological.”
Hancock said that these outdated NHS systems were a results of a “culture of risk aversion” and a false belief that tech is a matter for an IT department rather than a matter fundamental to an organisation.
In the speech, he announced the ‘GP IT Futures’ contract, designed to ensure that patients and the NHS can safely and securely access and share primary care data in real-time.
The new standards set out will require NHS systems to provide better access to patient data on easily upgradeable systems which also offer secure cloud hosting.
If the new standards are not met by tech providers, Hancock said IT providers will be unable to continue their contracts.
“I believe it should be as easy for a GP surgery to switch IT provider as it is for a small business to switch bank accounts,” he said.
He also highlighted efforts to advance new tech with the creation of NHSX, the unit announced in February responsible for devivering digital transformation in the NHS.
It will focus, among other things, on national policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, digital and data , including data-sharing and transparency.
“When I came in to this role, one of the first things I wanted to do was make emails and not letters the default mode of communication between patients and the NHS,” he said.
“It’s about cutting through the bureaucracy used to stand in the way of tech transformation.”