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NHS Digital and TechUK set out collaboration priorities for 2018

Partnership will focus on areas such as interoperability, innovative technology, working with SMEs, cyber security and a strategic review of NHS Digital’s digital transformation programme

NHS Digital and trade body TechUK have set out their key priorities for 2018, including a focus on helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) win business in health and social care.

The two organsiations set up their plans for a strategic partnership at the end of 2016, and it was officially launched in May 2017 with the aim of transforming the way suppliers engage with NHS Digital.

A report setting out its progress so far, as well as the next steps, said the two organisations will further “commit to ensuring the health and social care economy gets full value from SMEs”.

“Both organisations will work together to ensure SMEs are gaining a share of NHS and social care business,” the report said, adding that a series of joint commitments will be agreed on.

The partnership will also continue work to promote interoperability and ensure suppliers are compliant with the government’s open standards principles, as well as “horizon scanning” for new technologies.

NHS Digital’s director of programmes, James Hawkins, said the priorities will work as a “blueprint for success in the years to come”.

“The years ahead promise many exciting opportunities to advance technology in the NHS, working closely in partnership with industry,” he said.

The organisations have also developed a series of joint initiatives, which are still in their early stages and in the process of being launched.

One of these is a cyber security working group, which will bring together industry representatives with NHS Digital. The working group has three initiatives that are now in the planning phase. 

These are: TechUK promoting NHS Digital’s hunt for a partner organisation to expand its security operations centre; setting an innovation challenge for suppliers to create a mechanism to trace data back to the original source; and “to assist NHS Digital to baseline the level of cyber security of medical devices”. 

The partnership will also undertake a review of NHS Digital’s domains within the Personal Health and Care 2020 framework to find a “common view of the best way to engage with the market at an early stage” and establish governance groups for each domain. 

Successes achieved

TechUK CEO Julian David said the partnership has already achieved a number of successes, such as seven consultations and 25 market engagements, but added that this is “only the start”. 

“Now that we have seen a shift towards a more transparent and collaborative way of working with industry, we look forward to deepening that engagement, working together to deliver better health and care outcomes for the whole country,” said David.

The partnership still has work to do in several areas, however. The report said: “Issues have occurred where long delays have taken place getting responses to questions from programmes raised by industry at or after market engagement events, and a deadline of five working days has been set for answering all industry questions.”

There are also programmes within NHS Digital that choose to take a siloed approach, wanting to “follow their own process”, the report said. 

“We need the NHS Digital programmes to embrace the approach to market engagement through the innovation and partnership team,” it said.

“Significant progress has been made in this area and we are hoping that by promoting the achievements of the partnership and raising awareness, we can engage with all teams that are considering market engagement activities.” 

The two organisations are also working to encourage better two-way engagement between NHS Digital and suppliers, because at the early stages of the partnership, “most of the information has flowed from NHS Digital to industry”, the report said. 

“As the partnership progresses, we will seek to enhance the two-way flow of information,” it added. “We have added a voting app that has increased engagement and will investigate other methods, such as supplier panels, working groups and industry representatives mapped to domains.”

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