Empowering people in their care

NHS England’s new interim Chief Digital Officer looks at how digital services will enable a truly personalised NHS:

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out an exciting ambition for care that is more personalised and tailored around the needs of the individual, enabling people to have more autonomy over their health and wellbeing.

It describes a future where people will be empowered to participate in their care using digital services that truly meet their needs, help them live better with long term conditions, target prevention and offer them a much more personalised experience.

An area that I’m personally keen to develop further, is the joint work we’ve embarked on to increase the accessibility and functionality of digital services to enhance supported self-management, shared decision making and other personalised care objectives. I believe this will be transformative to delivering a truly personal NHS.

There is a terrific opportunity here as the provision of personalised care and patient facing digital tools can collectively improve health care experience and outcomes, reduce pressure on the system and provide value for money.

Personalised care is delivered through the ‘Comprehensive Model for Personalised Care’, bringing together six evidence-based and inter-linked components, each of which is defined by a standard, replicable delivery model.

These are:

  • Shared decision making, establishing the expectation that people are equal decision makers with clinicians.
  • Enabling choice, including legal rights to choice.
  • Personalised care and support planning, including enabling people to have access to both read and edit their Personal Health Records.
  • Social prescribing and community-based support.
  • Supported self-management, increasing the knowledge, skills and confidence (patient activation) a person has in managing their own health and care through systematically putting in place interventions such as health coaching, self-management education and peer support.
  • Personal health budgets and integrated personal budgets.

An action plan for rolling out personalised care by 2023-24 was published last week.

My responsibility as Chief Digital Officer, a role I begin today, is to drive the strategic direction for patient facing digital tools and services and oversee delivery. Our flagship programmes ‘map onto’ the delivery of the Comprehensive Model for Personalised Care as follows:

  • The updated NHS website now getting 43million views a month, enables people to understand their condition, be better informed for shared decision making with their clinician; supports self-management and healthy living, enables direct self-referral to services including mental health services; and supports choice through enabling comparison of NHS providers.
  • The NHS App being rolled out across the country, will become the “digital front door” to the NHS, connecting people initially to their primary care services and in time, to personalised care tools such as condition specific apps or patient activation measurement.
  • The Personal Health Record adoption toolkit supports localities to provide people with access to their health records in a standardised way.
  • The NHS Apps Library provides assured digital tools to help people manage their specific physical and mental health conditions as well as to keep well.
  • Our work on widening digital participation means that digital opportunities can be accessed by more people. A pilot in Sheffield is looking at socially prescribing digital skillsso people can take more ownership of their health.

We’re also keen to explore how we can best provide digital support for personal health budgets, and help people find appropriate community-based support through the NHS website and app.

With the clear vision across the Long Term Plan to offer digital first options for the provision of health and care to meet user needs and create a sustainable health and care system, comes the need to move at pace and continually innovate. It also requires strong clinical governance and standards that promote interoperability and a consistent, secure user experience.

Digital tools and services need to exist within our digital ecosystem, giving commissioners, clinicians and users confidence to use them. To enable a digital ecosystem we are:

We are working across teams through joint representation on key governance bodies, buddying regional delivery teams to identify and combine efforts within local areas, aligning our communications through shared narratives about our work, and inclusion on our roadmaps.

We have just published our 4th Empower the Person roadmap, which includes digital personalised care milestones for the first time. Do have a look as it outlines the key delivery timescales our teams are working to.

We will be exploring digital personalised care at our national conference on Wednesday 13 February. Thanks to a fantastic response, the conference is fully booked, but you can watch via a livestream at between 10am and 12.15pm, and then between 2.45pm and 4pm. See the programme and timings.

I do hope to see you there or tuning in digitally!

Tara Donnelly

Tara Donnelly is the interim Chief Digital Officer at NHS England.

She oversees a portfolio of citizen facing digital services, including the NHS website, NHS App and the development of digital services which meet people’s needs, target prevention and offer a personalised experience.

Tara is on secondment from her role as Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network. She has led the Health Innovation Network for over three years and is also a non-executive director at the Nuffield Trust.

She has an extensive background in leadership roles within the NHS and the voluntary and community sector and has spent the past 18 years at board level. She has worked in the NHS for 30 years, with her first role being as a Ward Housekeeper when she was 18.