New health secretary pledges £475 million digitisation fund in first speech

digitisation fund

Matt Hancock, the new health secretary, has unveiled a £475 million digitisation fund to help the NHS invest in technology

During his first speech as the new health secretary, Hancock told staff at West Suffolk Hospital that the money would “help jump-start the rollout of innovative technology aimed at improving care for patients”.

“From today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming,” Hancock said. “The opportunities of new technology, done right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • £400m will be given to hospitals to invest in technology that improves patient safety and allows more people to access health services at home;
  • and £75m will be set aside to enable NHS trusts to acquire digital systems that increase efficiencies and reduce errors when compared with paper-based platforms.

Hancock commented: “Of course, money alone won’t work. We will put in place the data standards, and support the workforce to adopt the change too. Some of this is about inventing new technology but, in lots of places, it is about adoption – because we know there are places where this technology is working.”

The health secretary stated that the process of inventing or identifying the technology represents “the small part” of the process of driving digitisation.

He added: “The big part is embedding a culture of always looking for the best possible technology and embracing it. I want to drive that culture change. And I want to work with everyone across the NHS and social care system to embrace the next generation of technology.

“We will work with suppliers who want to embrace this change. And I’m crystal clear that supplies who drag their feet or threaten to stand in the way won’t be supplies for long.”

Hancock said: “There will be a drive to better think about how the technology so many of us use in daily life can be joined up with the resources we have in the health system.”

The government is already working with Amazon to ensure content from the NHS Choices website is optimised for voice-activated technology – including, but not limited to, the e-tailer’s Alexa device.

Technology was one of the three priorities identified by Hancock in his speech. The NHS workforce was another, with the health secretary pledging to improve training and support and better help GPs deal with their workload.

The third area was prevention by focusing on giving people “the tools they need to manage their own physical and mental health needs closer to home.”


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