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Matt Hancock to promise £487m for NHS tech

In his first speech as health secretary, Matt Hancock will continue to fly the flag for digital

Health secretary Matt Hancock will promise to make £487m available for NHS technology projects and to replace paper-based systems.  

In his first speech since becoming secretary of state for health in Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, Hancock will say he wants to drive a culture change across health and social care. 

“In all my experience, the small part is finding or inventing the technology,” he will tell staff at his local hospital in Suffolk. “The big part is embedding a culture of always looking for the best possible technology and embracing it.

“I want to drive that culture change. And I want to work with everyone across the NHS and social care system to embrace the next generation of technology.”

The £487m funding will be split, with £412m used to transform hospital technology and improve care. It will also be used for preventative care, ensuring patients have better access to health and care services while still at home, keeping them out of hospital for longer. The remaining £75m will be used to replace paper-based systems.

“From today, let this be clear – tech transformation is coming,” Hancock will say. “The opportunities of new technology, done right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”

Hancock will also say he is heartbroken that NHS staff feel undervalued, promising to “fight” for them.

But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Hancock’s speech is “letting down patients” by not focusing on reducing waiting times.

“Investment in technology is welcome, but years of Tory austerity have seen hospitals build up a £5bn repair backlog, resulting in clinicians nationwide using hundreds of pieces of equipment that are years out of date,” he said, referring to figures revealed by the Labour party last month showing that the NHS still operates more than 11,500 fax machines.

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Hancock, formerly secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, has been seen as a cheerleader for tech in government, with a long history of fighting for digital. 

As part of his new role as health secretary, Hancock will be accountable for the roll-out of the all-singing, all-dancing NHS app, due to be launched by the end of the year.

The app will enable patients to access their own medical records and NHS 111 services, order repeat prescriptions, update their personal preferences such as organ donation and data sharing, and obtain support for long-term conditions.

Last month, prime minister Theresa May promised to increase NHS funding by £20bn a year by 2023. This included a big focus on technology, which she said was one of the key building blocks in transforming the NHS.

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