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NHS Digital Briefing Oct 2016 - Easing the Burden on General Practice

Last week NHS Digital hosted two industry briefings in association with TechUK to share details of their current activities and services. FPM headed to the Leeds event to find out how change in the health service looks set to affect general practice, where we found the key messages related to the challenges inherent to modernisation, giving more power to patients and delivering integrated care.

Director of Digital Transformation Beverley Bryant introduced the 10 domains that have been identified as key factors in building an integrated, paper-free health and care system. Several of these are highly relevant to primary care, most clearly domain C, ‘Transforming General Practice’. The stated aim of this is to use technology to free GPs from time-consuming administrative tasks and provide patients with online services.

The practicalities of domain C included a focus on promoting new IT models in general practice and making sure common standards are adhered to within them. This includes pushing forward with the idea to have GP suppliers define and build open interfaces (Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs), which will lead to more integrated care across the NHS. Interoperability was a term that came up time and again, and there is clearly a focus on making diverse healthcare systems work together harmoniously.

There was also talk of letting patients register with practices digitally, following on from schemes to make appointments and medical records available online, while new technological initiatives such as GP Connect were championed as valuable tools for general practice moving forwards. The audience heard that reducing the burden on GP practices and making payment systems easier to use were key targets, tying in with the General Practice Forward View.

The importance of being able to give clinicians remote access to medical records while out and about was also highlighted, for example during visits to care homes. Speaker James Rawlinson, Director of Health Informatics at Rotherham Foundation Trust, spoke about the ongoing need to ‘dissolve the boundaries’ between care providers.

NHS Digital

Many of the other nine domains also touched on topics relevant to primary care, including a mention of the use of apps and wearables to give more power to patients in monitoring and taking more responsibility for their own healthcare. A forthcoming online 111 system was also discussed, which will have the same triage services as the current phone service.

Cyber security was another hot topic, with concerns raised over the age and vulnerabilities of some of the software systems being used by NHS services, as well as the level of protection being offered. Dan Taylor, head of NHS Digital’s Cyber Security programme, highlighted the importance of personal responsibility and pointed out that there needs to be a balance between using the right data protection systems and ensuring staff are aware of basic responsibilities such as not clicking on suspicious or inappropriate content.

Overall there was a lot of positivity from the speakers, which was understandably tinged with a recognition that there will be many challenges ahead when it comes to implementing these changes. It was stressed that transparency and support for healthcare providers is key to the success of the projects, and it was promised that there will be further briefings in the near future to ensure the conversation remains open.

For more on the future of the NHS, including joined-up care and STPs, look out for FPM’s forthcoming interview with NHS Confederation Chair Stephen Dorrell - coming soon to the FPM Blog.


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