Achieving a digital NHS

Creating a digital NHS is a national policy priority. The NHS Long Term Plan emphasised  commitment to the digital agenda and promised fully digitised secondary care services by 2024. This report looks at digitisation from the perspective of acute trusts, and examines what lessons can be learnt for national policy | Nuffield Trust


As a new body, NHSX, has been established to lead national policy for technology, digital and data, and with the Secretary of State firmly behind plans to create a fully digital NHS, this report seeks to understand how national policy for digitisation is working from the perspective of acute trusts.

The authors spoke to 72 senior digital leaders in national organisations and NHS trusts as well as frontline health care professionals in an attempt to understand how national policy for digitisation is working from the perspective of acute trusts. The researchers wanted to know:

  • How national policy impacted on a trust’s approach to digitisation
  • How national policy was helping and hindering digital progress
  • What national policy could do differently to better support digitisation on the ground

This report sets out a number of areas that would benefit from national attention. A clear theme across all of the areas is the need for better communication and engagement between national policy makers and NHS providers.

Full report: Castle-Clarke S and Hutchings R  (2019) | Achieving a digital NHS: Lessons for national policy from the acute sector | Nuffield Trust

National Health Servers: delivering digital health for all

This research considers how technology could be adopted quicker and more widely by the NHS to improve the care that patients receive and to drive better health outcomes | Social Market Foundation


The report sets out proposals for future development of technology in the NHS, which impact across the patient journey. The report recommends:

  • Enshrining digital rights in the NHS Constitution to make a reality of promises in the NHS Long Term Plan and to level out unwarranted variation in provision.
  • Establishing clear priorities to promote access to digital healthcare among:

– Those who are already digitally-enabled – Recent Ofcom data shows that four in five UK consumers now own smartphones.  Meanwhile, ONS data from 2018 also reveals that in the last decade the proportion of individuals using the internet for health-related activities increased from 24% to 54%.

– Those managing long-term conditions where digital tech could have a huge impact.

  • Promoting digital access among individuals with long-term conditions, including through social prescribing of digital skills where necessary.
  • Addressing the risk that technology could exacerbate existing health inequalities by prescribing devices and wearables where there is a clear health need to individuals who cannot afford these products.
  • Enacting proposed reforms to instil interoperability across digital systems as proposed in the recent NHS Long Term Plan.
  • Opening a public debate on Electronic Patient Records and selling the benefits of patient data to the health of the UK population, as a first step towards winning consent for sharing and using data. This should include publishing an annual analysis of the estimated value of patient data to the public and NHS users, in terms of treatments developed and made available, health improvements and efficiencies recorded.

Full document: National Health Servers. Delivering digital health for all


Virtual reality can improve quality of life for people with dementia

Virtual reality (VR) technology could vastly improve the quality of life for people with dementia by helping to recall past memories, reduce aggression and improve interactions with caregivers, new research has discovered | University of Kent | via ScienceDaily


Many people with dementia (PWD) residing in long-term care may face barriers in accessing experiences beyond their physical premises; this may be due to location, mobility constraints, legal mental health act restrictions, or offence-related restrictions.

In recent years, there have been research interests towards designing non-pharmacological interventions aiming to improve the Quality of Life (QoL) for PWD within long-term care.

The authors of this study explored the use of Virtual Reality (VR) as a tool to provide 360°-video based experiences for individuals with moderate to severe dementia residing in a locked psychiatric hospital.

The paper discusses the appeal of using VR for PWD, and the observed impact of such interaction. It also presents the design opportunities, pitfalls, and recommendations for future deployment in healthcare services. This paper demonstrates the potential of VR as a virtual alternative to experiences that may be difficult to reach for PWD residing within locked setting.

Full article: Tabbaa, L. et al. |  Bring the Outside In: Providing Accessible Experiences Through VR for People with Dementia in Locked Psychiatric Hospitals | Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2019 | DOI: 10.1145/3290605.3300466

See also: VR can improve quality of life for people with dementia | ScienceDaily

Investing in health and care data analytics

Untapped potential: Investing in health and care data analytics | The Health Foundation


This new report from the Health Foundation highlights key reasons why there should be more investment in analytical capability. The report calls for action and investment across the system so the NHS has the right people with the right tools to interpret and create value from its data. This could result in an NHS that can make faster progress on improving outcomes for patients.

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Key points
  • The NHS generates a huge amount of data. Making better use of this growing mountain of information has the potential to improve care and how services are run.
  • Yet the NHS is failing to make the most of its data because there aren’t enough people with the right analytical skills to make sense of the information that is being collected.
  • More investment is needed in skilled analysts to unlock the full potential of NHS data to benefit patients.


Nine key reasons why there should be more investment in analytical capability:

  • Clinicians can use the insights generated by skilled analysts to improve diagnosis and disease management.
  • National and local NHS leaders can evaluate innovations and new models of care to find out if expected changes and benefits were realised.
  • Board members of local NHS organisations and systems can use analysis to inform changes to service delivery in complex organisations and care systems.
  • Local NHS leaders can improve the way they manage, monitor and improve care quality day-to-day.
  • Senior NHS decision makers can better measure and evaluate improvements and respond effectively to national incentives and regulation.
  • Managers can make complex decisions about allocating limited resources and setting priorities for care.
  • Local NHS leaders will gain a better understanding of how patients flow through the system.
  • New digital tools can be developed and new data interpreted so clinicians and managers can better collaborate and use their insights to improve care.
  • Patients and the public will be able to better use and understand health care data.

Full report: Untapped potential: Investing in health and care data analytics | The Health Foundation


London Ambulance Service to enable ambulance clinicians to access patient information on the move, without a Smartcard

NHS Digital | April 2019 | Ambulance clinicians to access patient information on the move, without a Smartcard

London Ambulance Service has started a pilot to enable its clinicians to securely access Summary Care Record data on an iPad, without the need for a smartcard or N3, by using the new NHS Identity Service to authenticate to the system.


NHS Digital has developed the pilot, which will use Camden Ambulance Station as an initial user base. Around 60 medics will have access to patients’ summary care record (SCRs) and additional information securely on their iPads. This includes vital information about a patient’s medical history such as details of long-term conditions, significant medical history, ongoing prescriptions, known allergies and any other specific needs.

This is a major first step for the pilot project, which aims to show that the Summary Care Record is accessible through a mobile device anywhere, without the need for a smartcard.

The pilot will last 16 weeks which will provide project teams with vital information and feedback about the products. This will be essential for ongoing product development, counting benefits experienced from a technical and end user perspective.

Full details from NHS Digital 

NHS staff and parents to gain access to crucial child health information

NHS Digital | April 2019 | NHS staff and parents to gain access to crucial child health information

A new live service which enable access to important child health information at the point of care for health professionals has been launched by the NHS.

The service, the National Events Management Service, securely publishes information on key health interventions for children. Parents and health professionals can securely receive information digitally and use it to inform decisions on care and treatment, the service is the result of collaboration between NHS Digital and NHS England with IT suppliers.


The service shows which preventative interventions a child has received; improving the speed of diagnosis and treatment by giving health visitors and parents access to the same information sources at the same time.

The service has initially launched in North East London in partnership with North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) and their health visiting and child health services. IT suppliers which already support the Trust have connected their products to the new service.

Full details from  NHS Digital


WHO Guideline: recommendations on digital interventions for health system strengthening

World Health Organization | April 2019 | WHO Guideline: recommendations on digital interventions for health system strengthening

WHO (World Health Organization) has recommended 10 ways in which countries can use digital health technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers, to improve people’s health and essential services. The document Recommendations on digital interventions for health system strengthening
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The key aim of this guideline is to present recommendations based on a critical evaluation of the evidence on emerging digital health interventions that are contributing to health system improvements, based on an assessment of the benefits, harms, acceptability, feasibility, resource use and equity considerations. For the purposes of this version of the guideline, the recommendations examine the extent to which digital health interventions available via mobile devices are able to address health system challenges at different layers of coverage along the pathway to universal health coverage (UHC). By reviewing the evidence of different digital interventions, as well as assessing the risks against comparative options, this guideline aims to equip health policy-makers and other stakeholders with recommendations and implementation considerations for making informed investments into digital health interventions.

This guideline urges readers to recognize that digital health interventions are not a substitute for functioning health systems, and that there are significant limitations to what digital health is able to address.

  • birth notification via mobile devices
  • death notification via mobile devices
  • stock notification and commodity management via mobile devices
  • client -to-provider telemedicine
  • provider-to-provider telemedicine
  • targeted client communication via mobile devices
  • digital tracking of patients’/clients’ health status and services via mobile devices
  • health worker decision support via mobile devices
  • provision of training and educational content to health workers via mobile devices (mobile learning-mLearning)  (Source: WHO)

Full details from WHO