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Government must address past mistakes to deliver digital transformation in the NHS

30 June 2023

The Government’s ambition for digital transformation in the NHS can only succeed if Ministers address mistakes of the past, warns a new report from the Health and Social Care Committee.

MPs find reason for optimism in the Government’s approach however the report cites evidence that parts of the health service still lack even the most basic, functioning IT equipment. Previous attempts at digital transformation have been thwarted by out-of-date “legacy” IT systems and hardware unable to handle the demands of a modern digital health service.

MPs conclude that a shortage of skilled digital professionals in the NHS presents a barrier to digital transformation, with specialists able to command higher wages or better conditions in the private sector. The report recommends allowing additional pay and bonuses to recruit specialist staff.
The report also notes that many of the Government’s plans on key objectives like reducing waiting lists and improving access to GPs rely on increased use of the NHS App however MPs warn that the Department and NHS England must clearly demonstrate the App’s continued value or risk a drop in the number of sign-ups, which risks frustrating these goals.

Chair comment

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Steve Brine MP said:

“We find reason for optimism in the government’s approach to the digital transformation of the NHS. We know that the NHS app was hugely successful during the pandemic and the government has big plans for it to do more to bring real benefits to patients.

“However, there are major challenges to overcome. On a visit to the US, we saw digital patient records being used seamlessly in hospitals. Here, it can take more than 15 minutes for a clinician to turn on a PC because kit is outdated. The lack of skilled digital professionals is a further barrier. Until the NHS can offer higher salaries to compete with the private sector, it won’t be able to attract the people to deliver the transformation that’s needed to run a modern health service.

“The long-term sustainability of the health service depends on getting this right but there will be people who decide that digital services are not for them, and we are clear that they should not find themselves excluded by future developments.”

Further information

Image credit: PA/UK Parliament