• NHSX exploring setting minimum level of tech spending for trusts 
  • New NHS planning guidance predicts “major expansion” of digital consultations 
  • Trusts expected to begin introducing video appointments in “major” outpatient services in 2020-21 

NHSX is exploring setting a minimum level of technology spending for trusts, regulators revealed today.

The new NHS planning guidance said NHSX, along with NHS England and Improvement, is in talks with health systems and providers to determine whether there is a “minimum and optimal” level of technology spending, based on how digitally advanced a trust is.

The document stated systems and providers “will want to ensure an appropriate level of investment in tech to achieve full use of modern digitised technology in the NHS”.

The document also predicted significant growth in the use of phone, video and online consultations over the next four years.

NHS trusts are expected to “begin introducing” video consultations in major outpatient services in 2020-21 so “all patients” can have remote access to hospital appointments.

Sustainability and transformation partnership and integrated care system areas, and clinical commissioning groups, are also required to make sure online GP consultations are available for patients “where these are not already in place”.

The document added: “We will provide materials and guidance to support this based on the national video consultation pilot.”

The long-term plan, published in January 2019, set out an ambition to reduce unnecessary outpatient appointments by a third by 2023, with “tangible progress” expected to be made by 2020-21.

The planning guidance added: “Many face-to-face outpatient appointments could be dealt with through the use of technology or are not clinically necessary.

“By expanding alternatives to face-to-face appointments, and not bringing patients in for appointments that are not needed, the NHS will avoid a third of face-to-face outpatient attendances by 2023-24.”

The guidance also referred to planned changes to the national tariff payment system, which will see payments made to hospitals for traditional outpatient appointments cut.

The document added: “To help systems act on the opportunities to reduce unnecessary outpatient activity in 2020-21, we are proposing reforms to the payment system to ensure providers do not lose income from doing so.

“This means providers can gain by ensuring only patients who need in-person outpatient care are asked to travel in for an appointment.”