The NHS Long Term Plan: turning ambitions into reality

11th Mar, 2019

The NHS Long Term Plan acknowledges the immense challenges our health and care services face as the UK population grows and ages. It sets out what needs to be done over the next 10 years to ensure that services are fit for the future, and that maximum value for patients is extracted from every pound of taxpayers' investment.

We weren't surprised to see that many of the plan's ambitions echo recurrent themes in conversations we have with senior clinical and operational staff at acute hospitals. In particular:

  • Dissolving the historic divide between primary and community health services
  • Going paperless at the point of care by 2020
  • Giving patients more control and information to drive better engagement and outcomes

From these themes it's clear that digital transformation is high on the agenda. Technology can be an effective way to alleviate pressure and drive real improvements by removing repetitive and mundane tasks, simplifying processes and reducing resource waste. Using technology in this way will also help the NHS build on its impressive productivity savings record, and make strides towards achieving the Long Term Plan's cash-releasing productivity growth target of at least 1.1% per year.

What's hampering progress?

Despite awareness of the benefits, many hospitals are struggling to make progress in their digital transformation. From what we've learned, there are three barriers that typically hold them back:

Legacy software. NHS organisations tend to rely on large estates of disparate and legacy systems and software that were never designed to be connected or integrated. Lack of interoperability and APIs for the public good mean staff have to find workarounds, which often involve phone calls, paper forms and rekeying data into spreadsheets.

Data silos. Because systems are disconnected, sharing and moving data between them is difficult, even impossible. That makes it challenging to achieve the vision of a seamless digital journey across health settings, along with the associated goals for productivity improvements.

Different priorities. While clinical and nursing staff are focused on patient care, the operations team is concerned with efficiency savings, and the CIO is dealing with a 'to do' mountain of 50+ projects, every one of which might make a difference. Agreeing transformation priorities becomes a delicate balancing act.

So how can individual hospitals make real progress and drive the changes and productivity growth target the Long Term Plan calls for?

Advancing digital transformation

In many cases, clinical, nursing and other patient-facing staff are the advocates for change. They have first-hand experience of what does and doesn't work, as well as insight into what needs to be done to close the gaps in user and patient journeys.

Swapping paper for digital in the appointment booking process is one of the ways that acute hospitals involved in the Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme are advancing their digital transformation. Around 75% of acute hospitals are delivering significant efficiency gains and savings by improving patient communications projects by working with Netcall. Success include Ipswich Hospital, where outpatient DNAs are down by 38%; and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, where cutting missed appointments is delivering savings of up to £1m a year.

A flexible, scalable development environment

Some GDE programme members are now moving to the next step and deploying the Netcall Patient Hub ®, which provides a gateway to the digital heart of a hospital's appointment management process.

Patient Hub is built on the Netcall MATS Low-code platform. The platform provides a secure development environment that accelerates change across a hospital and unlocks siloed data. With our Low-code platform, subject matter experts with no specialist coding knowledge can swiftly build process applications, taking pressure off overstretched CIOs and their teams. Risks are mitigated and governance is maintained, as IT retains full control of the underlying platform.

Join us for breakfast to find out more

Doug Drinkwater of will chair a breakfast briefing on Thursday 28 March 2019 at 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin). Join us for an up-to-date market perspective as you hear from some of Network Rail's senior IT team and Netcall’s CTO, who'll discuss how organisations are making real changes in their transformation. Sign up and see more on the agenda.

In the meantime, discover more about our Low-code platform; and see how Nationwide, operating in a regulated industry, has driven significant savings by improving the user experience.

Did you know that we have an activity community with free-to-share accelerators? Read more here.

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