• HSJ understands more than 50 tech projects proposed for long term plan
  • Ideas include an app to handle personal health budget payments
  • Also includes proposals to expand telehealth, artificial intelligence and digital self diagnosis
  • Multibillion investment proposed for accelerating the collection and linking of patient data

Billions of pounds could be spent expanding artificial intelligence, telehealth and a host of new tech projects to support NHS long term plan ambitions, HSJ had been told.

Sources familiar with the long term plan process told HSJ that, as of last week, digital and tech workstream included dozens of projects, with a combined multibillion pound price tag, to support other workstreams.

These include a new national IT system for handling personal health budget payments and expansion of telehealth services for mental health, primary care and chronic diseases.

In addition, it is estimated that billions would need to be spent moving a growing stream of health and care data onto the cloud and create new tools, including artificial intelligence, for linking and segmenting that information down to the individual level for research, planning and direct care.

The NHS app, currently being piloted with 30 GP practices with limited functions, would also be expanded to connect to digitally delivered health services, such as lifestyle coaching, appointments booking with more health and social care service, and clinical trials.

The workstream is led by senior leaders in NHS England, NHS Digital and West Suffolk Hospitals Foundation Trust chief executive Steve Dunn.

More than any other part of the long term plan, digital and tech are highly dependent on supporting projects put forward in other areas, such as primary care or workforce.

As such, it is likely many tech projects proposed will be dropped as the final long term plan takes shape and programmes in other workstreams are deemed unaffordable within the £20bn funding envelope.

However, even if only half of the tech projects officials have deemed necessary to support other parts of the plan go ahead it will represent a substantial expansion in the use of digital technology in the NHS.

If accepted, it will also represent an expansion in the use of nationwide IT systems, as many long term plan projects rely on marshalling high quality rich data on a national scale.

HSJ understands some tech projects proposed include:

  • New patient apps for self diagnosis, self screening and digital therapeutics.
  • Upgrading the summary care record so that it flags people with autism and disabilities.
  • Expanding local health and care records across the country.
  • Automating administration tasks, such as eRostering, transcription, and eReferrals.
  • Increasing the capacity of existing telehealth services for mental health, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
  • Developing new models of delivering primary care through a virtual multidisciplinary team using telehealth and remote patient monitoring technology.
  • Creating a national NHS cloud service, which could host both national and local IT services and data, which is expected to cost £500m.
  • Increasing the network bandwidth across the NHS 10-fold, which is expected to cost between £250 and £500m.
  • Expanding the disease registries to more common diseases and increasingly automate and link a growing number of data sets for care, planning and research.
  • Collect full genomic data for and integrate with other data sets for research.
  • Using data to identify and predict patients at risk, including children, mothers and the frail and elderly.
  • Spend a further £250 to £600m on improving cyber security, including standard NHS security software for all NHS devices.

While the workstream contains many projects intended to support other parts of the plan, a large chunk of funding is needed to deliver existing tech commitments beyond 2020-21.

This includes deploying modern electronic patient records in every NHS hospital by 2023-24 and ensuring information flows across organisations, a job expected to cost £3bn over five years.

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