The times, they are a changing

NHS England’s Head of Digital Primary Care reflects on Expo 2015:

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.   No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” – Elbert Hubbard.

Elbert Hubbard defines what it is that we, as the NHS England Digital Primary Care Team, are trying to do for the NHS patient. The question of how to make technology work for us, while retaining the element of human interaction that makes primary care the caring, citizen-centred service it needs to be. It is central to everything that we do.

Last month forward thinkers from the sector came together at Health and Care Innovation Expo 2015 in Manchester to discuss innovative digital approaches to healthcare. This was a great event and the innovation across primary care is amazing.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he foresees all NHS patients having access to their digital summary care record by 2016. Obviously this poses questions for the digital team of how we can add value to primary care professionals in making this vision a reality to enable patients to have a hand in their own healthcare.

During my first presentation, “Clarity and Opportunities for GPIT Assurance”, I talked about evolving the existing securing excellence in GPIT to a Digital Primary Care Operating Model so that we consider the strategic changes in transforming general practice. This provided three key messages:

  • Technology is a key enabler and should be sitting at the heart to enable effective service delivery
  • GP IT assurance process is based on capabilities and outcomes
  • GP IT will be able to assess digital maturity across general practice and the move towards integrated care models

A “pop-up university” session to discuss the future of a Digital Primary Care Service was a great debate looking at the future, and fast forwarded five years to think about how we see primary care.

Simon Butler, a Birmingham GP with the Vitality programme, believes that the digitally enabled patient is already here and plays a big part of how care will be delivered. Most people have smartphones and access to the internet; they now need to be empowered to take control of their own health and, in particular, their long-term conditions.

Harry Longman, from GP Access, outlined the way technology has changed the banking sector, drawing interesting similes between banking and healthcare. Harry outlined the way that customers interact with their banks now, and wondered whether there were any takeaways for primary care and the way patients interact with their GP and other care providers.

The exciting work of the Pioneers, the Vanguards and the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund schemes highlights that this vision of Digital Primary Care is not only a distinct possibility but is actually being delivered for some patients already.

Despite this, it is clear that human interaction is still a fundamental part of the patient and GP relationship, and this can’t be completely digitised but enables more time for the GP to have an improved relationship with the patients in most need.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Expo. It was an honour to share the stage with the sector’s leading thinkers and I have a lot of great information to digest and weave into my work. I expect next year’s Expo to be even better.

Here’s to the next twelve months of innovation and progress!

Tracey Grainger

Tracey Grainger is Head of Digital Primary Care Development at NHS England with responsibility for supporting transformation across general practice and child health information services. This includes supporting services with a choice of high quality clinical IT systems, tailored to local requirements, while enabling the flexibility and innovation to meet current and future service needs of our patients and citizens.

She has over 24 years’ experience within the NHS that has involved leading service management, performance improvement and large scale transformational change programmes both enabled through technology and organisational development. Tracey has worked across national, regional and local levels in a variety of health care settings.

She is currently supporting the digital programme within the Estates and Technology Fund to support the delivery of new and enhanced technology solutions that will significantly improve patients’ access to services through innovative care models, making them available through digital enablement to all users of health and care data to support the delivery of better, safer care.