The government is making “inadequate” progress on its commitment to digitise the NHS and social care, according to a report from a panel of independent experts.
The panel, which was created by the Health and Social Care Select Committee of MPs, said progress towards improving the digital capabilities of the NHS was too slow and often lacked support and funding.
Its report measured the government’s progress against a range of commitments made in a 2022 policy paper, which included boosting use of the official NHS App as a way of allowing people to access more personalised care, as well as manage their health more independently.
But across that range of commitments, the expert panel’s report said the government’s progress was rated as either requiring improvement or had so far been inadequate.
Professor Dame Jane Dacre, chair of the expert panel and professor of medical education at University College London, said: “What is particularly disappointing is that the government recognises that the digitisation of the NHS is essential to bring about real benefits to patients, for example by helping them to monitor and manage long-term health conditions independently.
“Yet time and again, promises have been made but not delivered, hampering wider progress.
“For example, using data sharing to improve research and planning, which we’ve rated as inadequate.
“However, worryingly, we have seen no clear plan for how the government will address public and provider concerns regarding sharing personal data, which is crucial to address in order for this to be successful.
“We heard about issues with interoperability between systems and providers, making it difficult for all parts of the system to communicate effectively, leading to delays and efficiency losses.
“Evidence also highlights challenges in recruiting, retaining and building the specialised digital workforce, yet ministers have delayed a strategy focused on delivering a digital workforce.
“The aspirations to transform the NHS, supported by the right digital foundations, are to be applauded, however our report finds evidence mainly of opportunities missed.”
According to the panel’s report, the government’s work was rated inadequate in several areas, including its commitment to deliver integrated health and care records for all patients and improving workforce digital literacy.
The panel said the government’s work required improvement in the rollout of the NHS App, the use of patient data for research and planning and its work around the purchasing of digital technologies.
Steve Brine MP, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “These important findings by our panel of experts will support the work of the Health and Social Care Committee which is currently examining digital transformation in the NHS.
“Integration of the NHS with social care services is vital so it is concerning that these care settings appear to be frequently overlooked.
“The panel’s detailed work provides evidence of the government’s overall ‘inadequate’ approach to its commitments to digitise the NHS and will feed into the committee’s work, shaping the recommendations we make to ministers.”