techUK has launched a Life Sciences workstream, bringing together members actively working in drug discovery, digital therapeutics, data and AI, or those interested in moving into this space. As the Life Sciences sector looks to introduce digital health technologies into its portfolio, techUK are shaping the conversation.
A week in health policy: Hewitt Review response, Wes Streeting on technology, and Steve Barclay on NHS transformation
On 14 June, the Government published a response to the Hewitt Review on integrated cares systems (ICS), welcoming the report and emphasising its commitment to ensuring the success of ICSs as “places that are the engine for delivery and reform”. The response states that autonomy and accountability should not be viewed as contradictory, pointing to the CQC interim guidance published in March 2023, which set out the framework for assessing ICSs.
Overall, the Government response focuses on highlighting where existing commitments have already been set out that intend to address many of the recommendations made by Patricia Hewitt. The general sentiment expressed in the review broadly aligns with government thinking, but while it is useful to have a directory of the various plans and strategies set out over the past couple of years, the devil is in the delivery.
The Hewitt Review made a series of recommendations on data and digital. techUK has highlighted below the Government response and what this might mean for the tech sector.
Recommendation: That NHS England, DHSC and ICSs work together to develop a minimum data sharing standards framework to be adopted by all ICSs to improve interoperability and data sharing across organisational barriers.
- Outlines that “currently, NHS and publicly funded adult social care organisations in England must have regard to information standards”, pointing to the ‘Plan for digital health and social care’ and ‘Next steps to put People at the Heart of Care’ papers, which set out further commitments around data sharing.
- Further states that Health and Care Act 2022 makes information standards binding and extends them to apply to some private health and adult care providers, as well as pointing to launch of the Standards Directory, clinical information standards roadmap, digital playbooks, and mechanisms to track standards adoption.
- Implies that much of what Hewitt recommends is already underway e.g. By January 2024, Digital Social Care Records (DSCRs) suppliers are required to ensure care providers have visibility of core patient information via ‘GP Connect’.
- techUK’s Interoperability Working Group is leading on a response to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill which looks at many of these areas. techUK members are broadly favourable of the Act but await further detail regarding penalties for non-compliance and enforcement mechanisms. Please get in touch with [email protected] to find out more.
Recommendation: DHSC should, this year, implement the proposed reform of Control of Patient Information regulations, building on the successful change during the pandemic and set out in the data saves lives strategy (2022).
- Focussed on the complexity of the issue and need to engage further with stakeholders and the public.
- Highlighted the Government commitment following Lord O’Shaughnessy’s review into commercial clinical trials in the UK, published May 2023, to streamline the process of approaching patients about research, and establish how the public should be consulted.
- Hewitt’s recommendation focusses on fast-paced implementation, which receives little attention in the response.
Recommendation: NHS England should invite ICSs to identify appropriate digital and data leaders from within ICSs - including from local government, social care providers and the VCFSE provider sector - to join the Data Alliance and Partnership Board.
- Makes a commitment that NHS England will work with system representatives to review the membership of the Data Alliance and Partnership Board and understand how best to involve digital and data leaders from across systems.
- techUK called for a stronger focus on digital leadership, and coordination of between ICS leaders and those at the centre, in our report Right from the Start, and would encourage the Board to engage with industry representatives as well.
Recommendation: Building on the existing work of NHS England, the NHS App should become an even stronger platform for innovation, with the code being made open source to approved developers as each new function is developed.
- Points to ‘A plan for digital health and social care’, which outlines the commitment to making it simpler for industry innovators to collaborate with the health and care system.
- We would welcome further clarity around the Wayfinder Programme and its aims to make the NHS App a springboard for innovation, as well as engaging with the wider industry to understand how this can be made possible.
Recommendation: The government should set a longer-term ambition of establishing citizen health accounts.
- Points to access to patient records via the NHS App.
- The response does not delve into the detail of this recommendation, which broached incorporating much wider data from housing, education, transport, and more.
Recommendation: ICSs, DHSC, NHS England and CQC should all have access to the same, automated, accurate and high-quality data required for the purposes of improvement and accountability.
- Accepts the “spirit of this recommendation” and points to progress already underway, including better co-operation between key stakeholders and the use of the latest technology.
- States that the Data Alliance Partnership minimises the burden of collecting more data from frontline services, as well as pointing to the ‘Data saves lives’ strategy and ongoing procurement for the Federated Data Platform
- Announces that NHS England and DHSC have committed to a review of data collections.
- The Data Alliance Partnership Board should ensure it is working closely with both the national Secure Data Environment (SDE) team, and the leaders of the subnational SDEs, avoiding duplication of effort and achieving joined up access across the country.
Both the Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care gave keynote speeches at NHS ConfedExpo 2023.
Wes Streeting focussed on the centrality of innovation and technology to making sure the NHS is fit for the future. He highlighted the use of AI in cancer screening, using tech to move care into the community, and how the slow adoption of technology is currently working against this.
Streeting once again touched on Labour’s intention to publish a Long Term Workforce Plan. It is essential that this includes digital skills. He further pledged a single front door for innovators, identifying technologies that can be purchased at scale and negotiating a good price for those that meet priorities. NHS procurement is currently complex and often presents a barrier to innovators both large and small. techUK’s Commercial and Procurement Healthtech Community of Practice works with NHS England’s Central Commercial Function to address some of these barriers, but further clarity on the role of bodies such as AHSNs and the NHS Innovation Service would help simplify routes to market.
This speech was followed the next day by Steve Barclay’s, focussing on issues including expanding patient choice and reducing the elective backlog, and touching on several examples where technology had improved services and outcomes for patients. Barclay also highlighted the number of prescriptions ordered via the NHS App.
Barclay went on to say: “The reason I care about tech is simple: it improves outcomes and helps you do your jobs. And let me say this: when budgets are tight, tech is often the first thing to go. That is not my approach. I am protecting the tech budget – and those key investments that will help us in the long term.”
Barclay also indicated his preference for devolving decision-making, greater transparency, and a place-based approach. The only refence to the Hewitt review was to acknowledge its publication.
Health and Social Care Programme
With health and care systems around the globe facing increasing pressures, the use of digital technology has never been more important. Supporting a vibrant ecosystem with the potential to become a world leader, techUK is helping its members navigate the complex space of digital health and care in the UK and ensure our NHS is prepared for the challenges of the future.
The Interoperability Working Group will work towards achieving the vision set out in NHS England’s 2022 draft standards and interoperability strategy. The group will aim to encourage the adoption of open standards and fluidity of data whilst recognising the commercial needs of members. It will also focus on demonstrating the value of interoperability to NHS senior management and improving the abilities of SMEs to implement interoperability standards.
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