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NHS needs to create an ecosystem for innovation, says Swindells

NHS England’s national director for operations and information Matthew Swindells calls for the NHS to foster an “ecosystem for innovation”, but doesn’t believe in kitemarking all health apps

The NHS needs to create open systems where patients should control access to their own personal data, according to Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s national director for operations and information.

Speaking at the King’s Fund Digital Health and Care Congress, Swindells said patients need to have the tools to take responsibility for their own health and urged the NHS to create an ecosystem that allows them to choose how to do that.

“I don’t believe there’s going to be one app which will do everything the user needs and is used by everybody across the country. What we need to do is create an ecosystem for innovation,” he said.

“We need to get data platforms that are open. We need to create open systems where patients control access to their data.”

Swindells said having technology that works for individuals managing their own health is key to improving people’s care, but also key to efficiency and cost savings in the NHS.

“The perfect application for the parents of a child with Asperger’s syndrome will almost certainly be written by the parents of a child with Asperger’s syndrome. The perfect app for a young man with HIV will probably be written by the Terrence Higgins Trust – they won’t be written by government or by big multinationals,” he said, adding that individuals should have the right to give an app access to their medical data if they want.

“If I would like to authorise Tripadvisor to connect to my medical records, so that if I’m backpacking in Indonesia, it can tell me where the best place to go for my condition is, that should be up to me.”

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In December 2015, the government announced the evelopment of the “world’s first endorsement model” for approved apps.

The endorsement model is developed by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Public Health England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre. It aims to ensure that patients and professionals will be able to find useful apps that are safe to use.

At the time, NHS England’s then director of patients and information Tim Kelsey said it would be an opportunity for app developers to get an NHS kitemark.

However, Swindells said he is “personally not of the view that we ought to kitemark every application, because I think that just stifles innovation”.

He added that he does believe the new medtech innovation fund, announced by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, is the right way forward.

The programme means that the NHS will provide an “explicit national reimbursement route” for “medical technology innovations” through introducing an innovation and technology tariff category.

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