• Hancock releases “tech vision” with focus on mandatory IT standards for trusts and suppliers
  • Trusts will face new spend controls for IT projects
  • All NHS records should be moved onto public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, the document says.

The NHS should move NHS data and IT systems onto the cloud, using a system like those run by tech giants like Microsoft or Amazon, according to a document outlining the health secretary’s “tech vision”.

Matt Hancock has also produced a set of IT standards that will be “mandatory” for NHS trusts and NHS IT suppliers to meet.

The document published today said the NHS needed to “start with the assumption that all our services should run in the public cloud with no more locally managed servers”.

Instead IT services and data should be moved to public cloud services where they would benefit from “the resilience and backups of some of the most cyber-aware and heavily invested companies in the world”.

Published alongside the vision document is a new set of standards that suppliers must meet.

The standards include using a patient NHS number, demonstrating data security and clinical safety and enabling the free flow of information.

The document said: “Right now, we have too many systems that don’t talk to each other, often because the contracts we have in place do not adequately specify the standards of interoperability, usability and continual improvement that are needed.”

NHS Improvement would include the standards in its provider oversight regime and they would also be incorporated into the NHS standard contract and the Care Quality Commission inspections.

Officials were also working on “spend controls to enforce the use of standards when procuring new systems for the NHS”, the document said.

“All new IT systems purchased by the NHS will be required to meet the standards we set out and, in time, existing services will need to be upgraded to meet these standards.”

The document repeats many of the priorities emphasised by the health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, in his speech at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in September.

This includes a heavy focus on reshaping the relationship between the NHS and IT suppliers, which Mr Hancock has repeatedly criticised.

The document states: “Contracts should be short and avoid lock-in, enabling teams and organisations to swap in and out of better, cheaper services as they become available.”

It also echoes much of the official advice on digital and technology being developed as part of the long term plan, as revealed by HSJ on Monday.

This includes the specific recommendations of moving all NHS data onto cloud services, a task that officials have estimated will cost about £500m.

The use of cloud services, of which Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud, and Microsoft Azure are the dominant suppliers in the UK, has grown in the NHS in recent years as cloud capacity has expanded.

However, most trusts still run their IT systems through on site servers, maintained by an in house IT team.

Commenting on the release of the vision document, Mr Hancock said it would target “outdated and obstructive NHS IT systems”.

NHS chief clinical information officer Simon Eccles said the standards would: “Set the health service in England on track to be the world leader in innovative healthcare.”

NHS Digital chief executive Sarah Wilkinson said: “Everyone understands the value of this work but progress in recent years has been limited. Today, responding to a direct challenge from the secretary of state to transform the fortunes of this work, we are injecting a new level of energy and commitment.”