24 Feb 2023

Damning verdict on Government progress to digitise the NHS, as Commons Select Committee Expert Panel conclude several critical commitments missed giving an overall ‘inadequate’ rating

An expert panel to the Health and Select Committee have released their report on an ‘Evaluation of Government commitments made on the digitisation of the NHS’. The report is the fifth evaluation of the Government’s progress against their own commitments in different areas of healthcare policy and is the first assessing progress of digitising the NHS.

Chaired by Professor Dame Jane Dacre, the expert panel have presented a damning verdict of
inadequate progress on vital commitments to digitise the NHS. Progress against four of the nine
commitments were rated inadequate, with each commitment being vital to the Government’s aim.
These four missed commitments are:

  • to deliver an integrated health and care record for all patients (within the policy area of care of patients and people in receipt of social care),
  • to ensure public and professional support for the use of general practice (GP) data for secondary uses (within the policy area of health of the population), and
  • two commitments in the policy area of workforce digital literacy and the digital workforce, which together aim to ensure there is a sufficient number of staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to implement digitisation across the health and social care system.

The report concludes that ‘some key commitments have not been met or are not on track to be met’ and that ‘much of the evidence heard indicated that progress towards national standards and frameworks within the NHS is happening but is too slow overall. Providers have not received the resource and support they need from Government.’

The Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) welcomes this report published by the expert panel last Friday and supports its conclusions.

Of the four key areas of concern addressed in the report, the FCI is uniquely placed to support the Government in meeting the challenges of the third and fourth, namely the cost and efficiency of care (p.74); and workforce digital literacy and the digital workforce (p.88). However, this is dependent on provision of funding, including the resumption of continuing funding which was withdrawn last year. If funded, the FCI can deliver amongst other solutions, the following:

  • Develop a pipeline of clinical informaticians (via qualifications, accreditation, and recognition of skills), as well as mapping the flow of new accredited professionals according to their various functions;
  • Provide a career pathway for new informaticians – by the end of March, the FCI will be able to make a good projection of what a clinical informatics team should have and be doing for its respective trust. By the end of this year, an even more accurate picture can be provided, along with further recommendations for Government in achieving this;
  • Guarantee a minimum level of safety in all forms of digital transformation – currently, there is no mention of this re: clinical informatics practitioners. This is a key aspect which can be provided by the FCI.