In his first major speech since taking post last week, the Health and Social Care Secretary this morning announced a half a billion pound package to rollout innovative tech aimed at improving care for patients and supporting staff.
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “Because we are one NHS, our health system is uniquely placed to become the most advanced health system in the world – one where technology addresses the user need – making care better for patients, but just as importantly making life easier for staff.
“For too long, decisions on health and care have seemed to involve a trade-off – improving patient outcomes at the expense of placing ever more pressure on staff, while reducing the demands on staff has been seen to have an impact on patient care.
“Technology and data innovation offers an opportunity to move past this binary approach.”
As part of the plan the Government will invest £412 million into new technology at hospitals which will improve efficiency, enhance patient safety and help more patients access health services at home.
The Health and Social Care Secretary also set out plans to support the NHS workforce. He said:
“The nation’s health is determined by the health of the health and care workforce.
“So it is heart-breaking to see how undervalued you often feel.
“The sense of duty and public service that motivates you to go into health and care is one of the things that make the NHS the institution it is.
“I am determined that the commitment you show to your patients is matched by the commitment we show to you.
“So I have a clear message: I value you. I admire you. I will fight for you and I will champion you.”
The Government will launch a consultation exercise on workforce issues shortly, looking at issues including bullying and harassment and diversity.
The Health and Social Care Secretary will also convene a panel of a panel of clinical and professional advisers, from a cross-section of the NHS and social care workforce, to advise on issues affecting staff.
Examples of the type of innovative projects the £412 million digital funding could roll out include:
· Scrapping pagers and replacing them with smartphone apps. In West Suffolk, junior doctors will soon replace pagers with a new smartphone app, saving 48 minutes every shift by removing the need to phone colleagues for details after getting paged.
· Rolling out Scan4Safety barcode tracking in hospitals to trace all patients and their treatments, manage medical supplies and monitor the effectiveness of equipment. A pilot in six hospitals has saved £8.7m.
The £412m fund will be available to local NHS organisations which will put in bids setting out how the money will be used over the next three years. Bids will be approved by October with funding distributed later in the autumn.
A further £75m is available to help Trusts put in place state-of-the-art electronic prescribing systems which save money and reduce potentially deadly medication errors by up to 50% compared to paper systems. Bids have been processed for this funding and money will now be allocated to Trusts to start putting systems in place.
Responding to Matt Hancock’s first speech as the new Health and Social Care Secretary, in which he announced a £487 million funding package to transform technology for the health and social care system, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“This funding is good news for the sector, but it should be focused on delivering on joint local priorities rather than simply NHS national priorities.
“It is essential that councils have a significant input into local decisions on how this funding is used so that data is effectively shared in the interests of people using services and processes are streamlined across health and care systems.
“It’s good to see the Secretary of State’s focus on prevention which is the surest way to reduce hospital admissions and reduce pressures on the NHS and adult social care, which needs to be put on an equal footing with the health service.
“While significant new money has been announced for the NHS, no new money has been pledged for councils’ public health teams or adult social care which remains in desperate need of a long-term funding settlement.
“Reductions to public health budgets also need to be reversed to enable councils to continue to help people to live independently and well, which will help ease demands on the NHS and social care and save money for the public purse.”
Sally Copley, Director of Policy, Campaigns and Partnerships at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “While it is heartening to see the new Secretary of State’s focus on championing health and care staff, the upcoming Green Paper and social care reform is mentioned as a mere aside. This omission from his priority list is of deep concern.
“The social care system is on its knees and people with dementia are the principal victims – hundreds of thousands of them rely on social care every day.
“Investing in the NHS while ignoring social care is akin to pouring water into a leaky bucket. Our helpline is inundated with calls about people with dementia rushed to A&E and stuck in hospital due to lack of proper community support and we know avoidable admissions costed the NHS up to £400m last year. It’s now over a year since the public outcry over the dementia tax and the promise from this government to urgently address the failing system. We can only hope that this speech isn’t indicative of the government downgrading the urgent need for social care reform.”