Parliamentary committee requests government adopt health IT changes

The Health and Social Care Select Committee has published its report on ‘Digital transformation in the NHS’.

Community Pharmacy England previously submitted a response to this inquiry on behalf of the Community Pharmacy IT Group. Many of the suggestions within our consultation response are incorporated into the final report.

The committee acknowledges that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital transformation in the NHS. The health sector has rapidly implemented new technology to deliver care when physical contact is not possible.

However, some of the remaining challenges were highlighted by the committee, for example, limited digital connectivity in the NHS sometimes hinder access to patient records as well as limits sharing among clinicians. This can lead to suboptimal patient care.

Recommendations included:

  • Developing a standards framework for electronic health records to be adopted by all Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), with a focus on interoperability and data sharing.
  • Close collaboration with sectors like community pharmacy to integrate shared records in the future. This recommendation is in line with the Hewitt Review of ICSs, published in April 2023.
  • Addressing limited investment in updating outdated ‘legacy IT’ systems.
  • Aim to make the NHS the first national healthcare system to offer whole genome sequencing as part of routine care via the NHS Genomic Medicine Service.
  • Clarifying future feature plans for the NHS App.
  • When devising professional training, DHSC work with NHS England to ensure that digital training is integrated throughout its wider learning programmes.
  • Co-designing digital initiatives with stakeholders and clinicians to ensure workable improvements to existing practices. DHSC and NHS England must ensure that staff have the time and headspace to engage with this process.
  • Maintaining non-digital channels for patients who prefer face-to-face interactions.
  • The Department and NHS England should work together to introduce a more comprehensive accreditation scheme for third-party healthcare apps.

Commenting on the changes, Community Pharmacy England’s IT Policy Manager, Daniel Ah-Thion, said:

“The report correctly emphasizes the need to establish records frameworks that eliminate the significant disparities among records systems in terms of technology, training, access, and governance models. We strongly advocate for the implementation of NHS IT records standards that harmonize the underlying standards of the Shared Care Record (ShCR) and other systems. Additionally, we propose the creation of NHS Records Integration APIs, enabling clinical IT system suppliers to seamlessly integrate with these records and introduce solutions that reduce the workload of pharmacy teams when it comes to accessing or modifying records as part of an expanded system. It is important to acknowledge that the journey towards fully integrated records involves utilising the records we currently have, such as the new National Care Records Service (NCRS) portal and the incorporation of GP Connect integrations into pharmacy systems, as outlined in the recently published Delivery plan for improving access to primary care.”

Read the summary or the full report

Read our submission to the inquiry: CP ITG consultation response on NHS digital transformation – Community Pharmacy England (