Newborn Sophie

Juliet Bauer is the Chief Digital Officer – NHS England.

Just over a year ago she joined the NHS to lead the transformation of patient facing digital services.

Today, her daughter, whose life was saved by the NHS, turns two.

I owe the NHS, and am passionate about its future. But I could also see first hand how the NHS struggled to make the most of the available information and technology that could have supported its staff and made a stressful time for me much easier.

At a time where expensive to treat conditions are on the rise, people are living longer and the NHS therefore needs to provide more care than ever before, I saw that pressure could be alleviated if only systems were better connected and patients had access to modern digital services, information and tools.

My team are helping meet this demand by providing online services and tools that enable people to get the care they need in the most convenient way for them, reducing the need for unnecessary in-person appointments and freeing up face-to-face care for those who need it.

Fortunately, we are coming from a great starting point; 1.5 million people visit NHS Choices every day and more than 11 million people have already signed up for online patient booking and records. We’re now enabling these developments to move faster, go further, and deliver a more seamless experience for patients and the clinicians that care for them.IMG_1766

At the core of this work is the upgrade NHS Choices to our new NHS online service, which will not just offer more personalised advice and information, but will also enable patients to register with a GP practice, book appointments, view their health records, video consult a doctor and even be triaged for urgent care by artificially intelligent nurses.

This central point for all services, regardless of hospital, GP or specialism, will give patients the single joined-up relationship with the NHS that we know they want, and make it accessible and consistent whether they access via app, website or hospital kiosk.

But, though we are working to draw things together, this is absolutely not about a centralised, top down approach to development.

In fact, in the last few months I’ve met with some of the most inspiring leaders from a variety of local and national organisations, across the private and public sector, and attended the CCIO, CIO and CINO Summer School, to collaborate, listen and learn.

I talked in my last post about the importance of opening up the NHS to external expertise through our platform. We also want to work closely with our own staff to develop better digital commissioners on the ground and utilise local intelligence and experiences, of patients and clinicians, to ensure that the things we develop work for everyone.

And we need to take a clever, strategic approach to testing by using digitally advanced areas of the country which have the best, and most connected, systems to prove things quickly so we can roll them out to all patients, across the country, sooner.

Obviously, even the finest system is no use if people can’t access it, so we’ve implemented free Wi-Fi in 1,200 GP surgeries and, over the next six months, will roll this out to all other surgeries in the country. To make this happen, we’re working closely with CCGs and we recently presented and gave advice on adopting Wi-Fi at Public Sector Connect’s NHS Wi-Fi conference in Leeds and London.

The recent global cyber-attack which affected 47 NHS organisations demonstrated how important data security is and the impact it can have on patient care. Leadership is key in ensuring data security is embedded across an organisation, and we all have a part to play.

The work we are doing to give patients easy access to their confidential health records also brings with it its own security challenge; ensuring that people accessing records are who they say they are. We are therefore working on a pioneering Citizen Identity programme which will enable patients to use the same set of credentials to verify their identity, giving them secure and easy access to view appropriate information about themselves and those they care for.

As part of this work, we are testing identity systems locally including GOV.UK Verify and collaborating with clinicians and the public to understand more about how and why information is accessed.

At the same time, we are also starting to test patient access to their GP record online – patients taking part will be able to access and download their GP record without leaving NHS.UK. By transforming the patient journey and allowing them to stay on NHS.UK we hope to improve their experience and increase uptake.

So, these are exciting times. We’ve already achieved a huge amount as we work to foster innovation and providing trusted technology and access to all. As this work progresses, the patient experience will become more personalised, with advice and care uniquely tailored to each person. Services will appear more joined up, and patients will not just understand how to navigate between them, but will be smoothly guided through one clear relationship with the NHS to get to the care they need.

To achieve this, we must work together, across organisations, locally and nationally. We need to test and learn, collaborate and share, and listen to those we design for. And I can’t wait to make it happen.

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