The enquiry will consider topics such as digital interoperability and the prevention of digital health inequalities
“We will be challenging ministers on what actions they are taking to put data, digital and tech at the heart of transforming not only the NHS but the lives of patients.” Jeremy Hunt, chair of parliamentary health and social care committee
The parliamentary health and social care committee has launched an enquiry to look into how much progress has been made in achieving a digitally enabled health system across the NHS.
Last year, the independent Wade-Gery review of digital technology in the NHS reported that the health service was “too far away” from achieving digital transformation. At the time, the health and social care committee called for NHS England to produce a roadmap as a matter of urgency.
The newly-announced enquiry will assess government progress on moving to towards a digital approach to healthcare and deciding what further steps need to be taken. It will consider the digitisation of health and care records for interoperability so they can be accessed across primary, secondary and social care. The enquiry will also look at legacy IT systems in the NHS and the interaction between digital transformation and clinical research, as well as how to prevent digital health inequalities and inform patients of the benefits of digital approaches to health care.
There were some notable digital success stories during the pandemic, such as the use of data analytics to support the vaccine roll-out and the launch of the NHS Covid app. The RECOVERY trial, which established the benefits of dexamethasone to reduce patient deaths during the pandemic, has been cited by the government as a data analytics success story.
The enquiry will also look at the need to develop public trust. Polling suggests a third of people are unconvinced about the long-term use of digital in the NHS and the need for reassurance about data security.
Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the health and social care committee, said: “The success of the RECOVERY dexamethasone trial leading to hundreds of thousands of lives being saved shows what can be done when you put the right data in the hands of medical researchers. Though the government has committed itself to bringing about a digital transformation of the NHS an independent review found it was way off achieving this goal.”
He added: “We will be challenging ministers on what actions they are taking to put data, digital and tech at the heart of transforming not only the NHS but the lives of patients.”
The committee is inviting evidence from the public. The closing date for submissions is 10 June.
The Covid-19 pandemic gave a real boost to the adoption of digital processes in the NHS. Millions of people now use the NHS app to make GP and hospital appointments, order prescriptions and access their health record. We are also seeing far more hospitals roll out electronic patient records. The focus now needs to be on joining up primary and secondary care and providing researchers with access to the NHS’s rich data stores. We hope that MPs will concentrate their efforts on investigating how to remove the final barriers to a fully-digitised NHS.