Mandating NHS IT

This week saw the launch of the first mandate between the government and the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB), setting out ambitions for the health service over the next two years.  The mandate was real evidence that the reforms are well and truly in place and that for anyone who believes it is yet to happen, they should perhaps get back into their time capsule!

The mandate reaffirms the government’s commitment to an NHS that remains comprehensive and universal – available to all, based on clinical need and not ability to pay – and that is able to meet patients’ needs and expectations now and in the future.

‘So’ I hear you saying, with one leg in your time capsule, ‘what’s new and what has it got to do with healthcare IT vendors?’ The NHS mandate is structured around five key areas where the government not only expects NHS CB to make improvements but also to monitor them and the progress made too.

The five key areas are:-

  1. Preventing people from dying prematurely – this to me is about early interventions such as wellness, coaching and screening programmes.
  2. Enhancing quality of life for people with long-term conditions – including technology supporting people within their homes creating more independent living.
  3. Helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury – this sounds very much like a real focus on integrated care, the joining up of information between care settings as well as encouraging the independent sector such as Virgin Health with use of their gyms.
  4. Ensuring that people have a positive experience of care – the previous minister coined the expression “No decision about me without me!” This effectively meant a number of things, that no patient should be left in the dark about risks and their options, that no decision should be made without healthcare professionals understanding what is important to the patient so that an informed, values-based choice is made. This suggests to me that information sharing, comparative information and online feedback forums will all play a huge role in this.
  5. Treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm – this is about service configuration and risk stratification; it’s about using technology, including ‘telehealth’ to ensure right care, right place, right time and improve patient safety; provide effective monitoring and early detection and, ensuring that audits are carried out if things go wrong.

The key objectives contained within the mandate include:

  • Improving standards of care and not just treatment, especially for the elderly
  • Better diagnosis, treatment and care for people with dementia
  • Better care for women during pregnancy, including a named midwife responsible for ensuring personalised, one-to-one care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period
  • Every patient will be able to give feedback on the quality of their care through the friends and family test starting from April 2013 – so patients will be able to tell which wards, A&E departments, maternity units and hospitals are providing the best care
  • By 2015 everyone will be able to book their GP appointments online, order a repeat prescription online and talk to their GP online
  • Putting mental health on an equal footing with physical health – this means everyone who needs mental health services having timely access to the best available treatment
  • Preventing premature deaths from the biggest killers
  • By 2015, everyone should be able to find out how well their local NHS is providing the care they need, with the publication of the results it achieves for all major services.

So, for those healthcare IT suppliers with one foot inside the time capsule and one foot outside, take note – not only does the mandate set out the benefits for us as patients but in every single one of the five areas that it focuses on, there is a significant role for healthcare IT, I know I’ll be jumping out of that time capsule and sticking around for a while  – there is lots to do!

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