More digital than ever


The NHS IT strategy is ready to take its most digital steps ever with the announcement of new centres of excellence to develop high speed regional networks.

According to guidance from NHS England and NHS Improvement, each STP area will be tasked with developing its own locally relevant version of the Internet dedicated to providing up to the minute information to health professionals, patients and the public.

A recent report from the King’s Fund argued that the generic Internet was holding the NHS back and concluded that the NHS should invest in “place-based superhighways that meet the needs of local populations”. Ultimately, everyone would have their own personal health Internet, the report concluded.

NHS England’s director of digital local relevance Amy Berners-Lee agrees.

“The vast majority of information on the Internet means nothing to the people of Basingstoke, Hull or Stafford,” she said.

“Our research among local communities suggests that people only want to know about what really matters to them, such as where to catch the bus to the hospital or how to get a GP appointment in under three weeks. That level of granular information can only be delivered by locality based Internets and the STP footprint is the logical unit of delivery.”

Ten areas are to be designated locality internetworking exemplars (LIE) and encouraged to develop their own versions of the Internet in collaboration with clinician technologists and patient software engineers.

NHS Horizons will organise “hackcelerators”, half-day workshops where groups of enthusiasts with an interest in programming and access to pastries will co-produce local variants of the World Wide Web. 

Unlike the existing Internet, NHS digital locality information superhighways (DLIS) will provide a one-stop-shop for innovative toolkits, suites of resources and templates.

The extensive library of templates will enable commissioners and providers to download and print forms, scorecards and checklists to be faxed or posted to each other and to national bodies “within days”.

“Every year, the NHS wastes enormous sums of money creating and distributing pointless forms to collect data that is of no use to anyone. Now, thanks to the power of digital technology, we can create them once and store them in an online library where they can be shared with anyone who needs them,” said Berners-Lee.

CCGs, NHS trusts, primary care providers and local authorities are expected to work together to produce local superhighway plans before the end of the financial year, and to apply for exemplar status by December 2018.

Each STP area will also need to come up with an interoperability strategy to ensure that its own Internet is eventually capable of working with neighbouring systems, though NHS England’s guidance is at pains to point out that “there can be no one-size-fits-all approach”.  

National bodies have made it clear that any organisation that wants to access transformation funding in future will need to produce credible plans for a local superhighway before the end of the week.

Placemats editor: Julian Patterson 


Reproduced at by kind permission of Julian Patterson.