Integration at the heart of the digital revolution trailed at NHS Expo

Posted On: 
15th September 2017

This week the Dods Health team set out for the NHS’s flagship innovation event in Manchester, the NHS Innovation Expo 2017, eager to see the next steps for innovation and the digital strategy in the NHS.


The recent life science strategy, which promised the NHS would be at the heart the collaborations addressing challenges in the sector post Brexit, and Sir Michael Marmot’s calls for a full life expectancy inquiry; meant we arrived with a thirst for what was next to come for the service. 

The NHS chief executive , Simon Stevens, outlined key areas where the NHS would prove itself a “hot bed of innovation”, including pharmaceuticals using anonymized clinical data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The Expo included highlights in areas of biosimilars and biomedicine, while radiology would benefit from machine learning and AI, areas including genomics and genetic medicine, a mystery to most, all had potential and all would need to be backed with NHS investment. 

While the 70th Anniversary of the NHS took centre stage, with Ethel Armstong who had been in the NHS since its birth joining Simon Stevens to look at how far the NHS had come. It was the keynote speech from Jeremy Hunt which outlined the eight ambitions which would define the next 10 years in the NHS as the decade of patient power.

Digital innovation would drive patient power in the next decade, while the current decade could fairly be considered to have focused on patient safety. Fitting indeed, with the Draft Patient Safety Bill published this week. While Sir Bruce Keogh used his final Expo keynote speech to proclaim more work was required on sepsis and stroke treatment we can therefore expect more to drive a safer patient environment.    

A raft of digital ambitions were unveiled to Expo including simplification for opt out for organ donation, decisions of end of life care preferences and management of patient data all to be migrated online and thus in the hands of the patient. Other ambitions included increased access to GP appointments; a fully functioning NHS 111 service online; further access to online prescriptions; and, having your NHS foot print available online to track interactions with the service. 

With increased pressures on the NHS, social care, delayed transfer of care and workforce high on the agenda, Hunt’s announcement that people living with multiple long-term conditions would be supported through new digital measures was welcomed. An area NHS England has long fallen short, the Expo audience heard that online support for long-term conditions through apps was Hunt’s final recommendation. However key challenges remain around access to technology and if patients are to truly benefit we can expect to see the announced 20 new digital inclusion hubs expanded further.

On mental health, we heard there was still work to do on addressing the two-door system for mental and physical health, with life expectancy gaps between people with a serious mental illness remaining high. The economic case for treating mental illness at the same time as physical condition diseases will be the next key debate on mental health and a case for integrated care support services outside hospitals a potential area which could be testing at scale within STPs.

As the STP process develops we can expect the sector to be looking to engage more and more with political influencers in their area. From a political standpoint it is clear that touch points and areas for debate which will make their way onto MPs desks will need to centre around integration in order to accomplish the decade of digital patient power desired by the sector.   

Dods Monitoring is Europe’s leading provider of tailored political intelligence. Find out more by visiting the Dods website.