Our role in developing digital capabilities

The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer launches NHS England’s digital framework for AHPs:

As citizens, we increasingly rely on technology to support our day-to-day lives; staying in contact with friends and relatives, paying bills, shopping from home or keeping up to date with the latest news.

Digital capabilities have transformed other industries in a way many would not have imagined a decade ago

The use of information and technology also has the power to improve health, care and wellbeing. It can give patients and service users more control over their health, and is key to the NHS meeting the quality, safety and efficiency challenges it faces. This is the expectation people have of health and care services.

Earlier this year we have seen the NHS Long Term Plan explicitly identify that digitally enabled care will go mainstream across the NHS to improve population health, patient care and support healthcare professionals. This is supported by the Topol review, asking NHS staff to make the most of innovative technologies such as genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence and robotics to improve services.

As allied health professions (AHPs) we have an individual and collective responsibility to play a role in the development of these digital and data capabilities, anticipating the challenges and realising the benefits. Enabling AHPs to use information and technology is therefore one of four priorities in AHPs into Action.

A Digital Framework for Allied Health Professionals supports local services and AHPs to make that happen and works towards services that are both paper-free at the point of care and connected to other services and systems.

What can you do next?

AHPs will need to be proactive in clearly articulating what technologies and capabilities patients and services need, and what impact this will have on care and service delivery. This digital framework will help them to do this.

AHPs will also need to work with their Chief Clinical Information Officer’s (CCIO’s), Chief Information Officer’s (CIO’s), technology, information and finance leads to understand how they can best use digital capabilities and health technologies to develop and improve local services.

The Chief AHP Officer awards 2019 are an important opportunity to recognise where AHPs are already making a significant difference with technology, and we encourage you to submit examples by the 10 May.  You can also join a @WeAHPs tweetchat on Thursday 25 April and discuss AHP perspectives on digital from around the country.

Together we can ensure we deliver digital and data enabled AHP services for the benefit of our service users and the wider health and care system.

Suzanne Rastrick

Suzanne qualified as an Occupational Therapist from Oxford. Suzanne was the first Allied Health Professional (AHP) to hold a substantive Director of Nursing post in both provider and commissioning organisations. She became the Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust, where a particular highlight was having leadership responsibility for delivering health resilience and health ‘blue light’ services during the Olympic sailing events held in Dorset in 2012. She subsequently gained authorisation for a large Clinical Commissioning Group, before moving to her current post with NHS England. She was appointed as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for England in September 2014.

In 2017 Suzanne launched the first AHP strategy for England which has been recognised as ground-breaking in policy development from its use of crowdsourcing. Building on this, Suzanne published the second AHP strategy – ‘AHPs Deliver’ in June 2022. This iteration had a greater emphasis on patient, public voice and specifically the inclusion of those who may be digitally excluded along with communities who may find it difficult to connect with traditional consultation methods. The result is a national strategy crowdsourced from diverse populations for people and communities AHPs serve.

For over three decades, Suzanne has held non-executive portfolios outside of the NHS, including audit committee chair roles, predominantly in the housing and charitable sector. Suzanne was recognised as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours list 2019. In 2023 Suzanne was awarded a Visiting Professor role at St George’s, University of London and at Oxford Brookes University.

Follow Suzanne on Twitter/X @SuzanneRastrick or Instagram @chief_ahp_officer_england