Of course we would welcome this. But… caveats below.
Jeremy Hunt’s announcement to make £260m available ‘to improve patient safety’ through technology solutions like ePrescribing does show government is serious in delivering policy commitments from the Power of Information published last year and subsequent announcements.
We identified ePrescribing and accessing and capturing information at the point of care as digital health solutions the NHS should focus on in our ‘Digitising the NHS by 2018‘ report from March this year. But we do want to emphasise that ePrescribing is part of a wider Medicines Management Strategy and needs to be aligned with Trusts EPR strategies – simply bolting on ePrescribing with barcode patient identification is the tip of the iceberg and will not fulfil the highlighted patient safety and financial benefits unless considered as part of the wider Medicines Management and EPR strategies.
No point debating whether £260m is enough money – not for what we ultimately want to achieve across the health system, but it can kick start and help provide the stimulus needed to get us going. Interestingly though, will ongoing procurements be able to tap into fund or is it for new projects only? And is this fund separate from the £140m set aside for nurses in reducing paperwork and using technology (which we have heard very little about since announcement)?
Whatever the answer to the above questions, to ensure the £260m fund has the maximum impact we recommend any NHS trust thinking of applying to:
- Understand what you want the outcomes of the solution(s) to be – not just what the solution should be – and how it fits with wider strategy and operations and is supported by users.
- Properly look at what the market has to offer to meet your requirements and desired outcomes – share your ambitions and get honest answers back and start developing partnerships.
- Ensure the solution integrates with other systems and joins up information – no more siloed systems that stand in the way of joined up information and care delivery.
Though we wait to find out more on the details of the fund, we recommend the Department of Health and NHS England not to be too prescriptive and rigid in awarding the funds to trusts. Individual NHS organisations are best placed to identify the needs they have and what outcomes they want. Trusts need to demonstrate a good understanding of how their proposed solution will address their problem and deliver outcomes that improve patient care and safety, and efficiency. The role of the centre is to promote common standards and provide support for trusts to meet their goals.
We’ll provide clarity and insight once we know more and people figure out who’s responsible for what. Commentators are already seeing different views being taken by DH and NHS England.