Matt Hancock: technology is key to making the best NHS

The NHS can become the most advanced health system in the world by embracing the best innovations in new technology and artificial intelligence, says Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has set out plans to make the NHS an ecosystem for the best technology available. These will build on the £20 billion long-term plan to transform health and social care so it can improve treatment and deliver better care for patients.

He announced that the new NHS app will be piloted in five areas in England from October, ahead of a national roll-out in December. These areas are Liverpool, Hastings, Bristol, Staffordshire and South Worcestershire. Patients in these areas will be able to download a test version of the app, allowing access to:

  • booking GP appointments
  • ordering repeat prescriptions
  • their medical record
  • 111 online access for urgent medical queries
  • data sharing preferences
  • organ donation preferences
  • end-of-life care preferences.

More than £200 million will also be invested to make a group of NHS trusts into internationally recognised centres for technological and digital innovation. The funding will support new Global Digital Exemplars in acute, mental health, community and ambulance trusts in England to set a gold standard of innovation for other services to follow.

The Secretary of State also announced the creation of the HealthTech Advisory Board, chaired by Dr Ben Goldacre, which will report directly back to him. It will highlight where change needs to happen, where best practice isn’t being followed, and be an ideas hub for how to improve patient outcomes and experience and make the lives of NHS staff easier.

Matt Hancock said: “I love the NHS. It’s been there for me – as it’s been there for us all – at some of the most difficult moments in my life. The NHS has saved the lives of my close family, and has cared for family and friends in dire need.

“I want the best for the NHS, and will do all I can to make that happen. We are increasing the NHS budget by £20 billion by 2023 to 2024, to guarantee the NHS for the long term. But money alone is not enough. We need to make the most of that money.

“Our hospitals operate dozens of systems each, that don’t talk to each other. GPs, social care, pharmacies and community care are on different systems. Systems crashing is a regular occurrence. The social care system is not at all integrated, when its integration is vital.

“The NHS infrastructure is stronger and moving in the right direction. Local pockets of brilliance shine out. The generic technology itself has moved on a million miles. And we have learned a huge amount about how to deliver cutting-edge tech in very complicated settings with big legacy systems.

“Now is the moment to put the failures of the past behind us, and set our sights on the NHS being the most cutting-edge system in the world for the use of technology to improve our health, make our lives easier, and make money go further, harnessing the amazing explosion of innovation that the connection of billions of minds through digital technology has brought to this world.”