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NHS England updates its 'Five Year Forward View' and sets out technology plans

NHS England’s updated five year strategy reveals mental health trusts chosen to become digital centres of excellence, launch date for NHS apps library and plans for NHS 111 online

NHS England has published the next steps in its Five Year Forward View (FYFV), setting out future technology plans for the health service.

The updated FYFV builds on the recommendations set out in professor Robert Wachter’s review of NHS technology, which aims to inform the English health and care system’s approach to further implementation of IT. 

In 2016, as part of the drive for a paperless NHS, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that 12 acute health trusts, chosen as “global exemplars”, would each receive up to £10m in funding to help them pioneer new approaches to digital services last year.

Earlier this year, prime minister Theresa May announced a £67.7m funding package to develop and implement digital tools to be used in mental health services. This included extending the global exemplar programme to include six mental health trusts.

In its updated FYFV, NHS England revealed that seven trusts have been selected as mental health digital exemplars “subject to HM Treasury capital approvals. The trusts include Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, South London and Maudlsey NHS Foundation Trust, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Mersey care NHS Foundation Trust, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust,” said the FYFV.

“These organisations are the most advanced IT hospitals in the NHS and have committed to work to become world class exemplars for the rest of the NHS to learn from. Their task is not only to become great, but to work with other acute trusts to develop a blueprint that can be deployed to other hospitals, reducing the time and cost for further adoption.”

“Our intention is that, in the future, hospitals won’t merely choose an IT supplier, they will choose a hospital they want to partner with and implement the same system, keeping the IT 80% the same and making only the 20% of the changes that are absolutely necessary to meet local needs.”

Online services

By September 2017, NHS England aims to have upgraded the current NHS Choices website to become NHS UK “which will offer a more personalised and tailored experience” such as allowing patients to access their records and book appointments through the website.

It will also include an updated NHS Apps Library, which is due to launch shortly. The library will include at least 20 apps for mental health and diabetes.

The previous apps library closed in 2015, mainly due to the government’s work on a new endorsement model to kitemark-approved health apps.

The new library will consist of three tiers of apps: NHS-approved apps with a published evidence base assessed by Nice and demonstrating they can “help a person manage and improve their health”, NHS-connected apps which have been “tested and approved for connections to NHS systems” meaning you can download information from NHS systems into the app, and standard “health apps which will be a directory of other health applications which you may choose to use”.

“From April 2017, developers will have the ability to self-assess themselves against NHS criteria, such as where they store your data and whether they sell or use your data for other purposes,” said the report.

“The ‘NHS-connected’ category will become vibrant during 2017 and 2018, as we make it easier for app developers to connect to NHS data sources.”

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NHS England is also working to design online triage services, testing apps, tools and interactive avatars to “define the best approach”.

“By December 2017, all areas will have an NHS 111 online digital service available that will connect patients to their Integrated Urgent Care via NHS 111,” said the report.

The organisation also plans to have all outpatient referrals being made via the NHS e-Referral Service by October 2018. Currently, only half of referrals are made using the service. 

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