The UK government will protect money for health technology from budget cuts, Secretary of State for Health Steve Barclay said on Thursday, speaking at a keynote session at the NHS Confederation Expo conference in Manchester.
“The reason I care about tech is simple: it improves outcomes and helps you do your jobs,” he said. “And let me say this: when budgets are tight, tech is often the first thing to go. That is not my approach. I am protecting the tech budget – and those key investments that will help us in the long term.”
He said the government intends to prioritise a range of investments, from “ensuring every NHS trust uses electronic patient records and investing more in bed management systems” to investing in the government’s new Federated Data Platform, for which an operating contract is expected to be managed later this year.
Government funds will also flow to “digitising the front line – from speeding up staff logins to staff passporting.” He added: “I am acutely aware that when it comes to tech it is often how we make the job of local teams easier that really matters.”
Barclay also referred to a main point of criticism highlighted Wednesday by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting in his own speech to the conference: the NHS App.
He said the government is expanding the app and added: “Contrary to what you may have heard from one speaker yesterday, over 2.4 million repeat prescriptions were ordered in April alone, alongside a quarter of a million primary care appointments that were booked on the app, with numbers increasing rapidly.”
Barclay also referred to the rapidly developing sphere of artificial intelligence (AI) and said his department is looking at how it can use AI to improve patient safety in maternity services.