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Sunak confirms £2.1bn to improve NHS digital technology

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UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged £2.1bn to improve NHS digital technology in today’s budget.

Sunak said the funding will support the “innovative use of digital technology so hospitals and other care organisations are as connected and efficient as possible”.

He said this will free up valuable NHS staff time, allowing them to spend more time caring for patients.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sunak said:  “Today’s budget does not draw a line under Covid; we have challenging months ahead. But today’s budget does begin the work of preparing for a new economy post-Covid.

“At the start of this parliament, resource spending on healthcare was £133bn. Today’s spending review confirms that by the end of this parliament, it will increase by £44bn to over £177bn.”

The chancellor also referenced previous pledges aimed at tackling the backlog of patients waiting for treatment. These include plans to create 50 million more primary care appointments and to build 40 new hospitals and 100 community diagnostic centres.

Dr Dan Bunstone, chief medical officer at Push Doctor, welcomed the funding but warned that primary care will be left behind if it does not embrace the merging of physical and online healthcare.

“Delivering the promise of 50 million more primary care appointments will require significant support from digital healthcare, working in tandem with face-to-face.

“In this primary care crisis, improving efficiency is vital. Without investment in digital healthcare solutions, primary care in England will be left behind as other sectors embrace the blurring of the physical and online world.

“Technology that is already available today can create significant efficiencies that open up greater numbers of appointments, with effective triage, centralised GP practice admin, and video consultations with online clinicians, not just GPs but physiotherapists, pharmacists, and nurses.

“This all leads to better and increased access for patients, reduced waiting times and ultimately, a more sustainable primary care system.”

Orlando Agrippa, CEO and founder of AI solutions provider RwHealth, said trusts may be reluctant to implement new IT systems because of the associated costs.

“£2.1bn of the new funding will be spent on improving IT and digital technology within the NHS. This is truly where this funding has the most scope for accelerating elective recovery. The use of data solutions has been massively beneficial throughout the pandemic and recovery thus far.

“Current systems are often outdated, cumbersome, and require specialist knowledge to use them. However, trusts can be reluctant to implement new systems to the perceived financial and training costs of such an investment.

“Training staff on new data systems can indeed be expensive, so the use of intuitive systems is paramount.

“We are facing vast challenges, battling with your systems should not be one of them. This funding is a perfect opportunity to break away from these old systems and enter the next stage of pandemic recovery with the tools needed to meet the needs of the population.

“With staff and resources spread so thin, trusts need detailed data insights to ensure they are deploying their resources and time efficiently. Backed by in-depth data on a provider and national scale.”

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