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by Jenni Davidson
25 April 2018
Digital healthcare to be led by national decision-making board, according to new Scottish Government strategy

Digital healthcare to be led by national decision-making board, according to new Scottish Government strategy

Health secretary Shona Robison speaking at Holyrood's Digital Health and Social Care conference - Image credit: Alistair Kerr/Holyrood

A joint decision-making board for digital health, a single national digital healthcare platform and care and a national approach to information sharing in health and social care are among the key plans in the Scottish Government’s first digital health and social care strategy, which was published today.

The Digital Health and Care Strategy for Scotland sets out six key areas of work that will be necessary to achieve the benefits of digital technology: national direction; information governance, assurance and cyber security; service transformation; workforce capability; a national digital platform; and transition process.

A joint decision-making board made up of representatives from central and local government and the NHS will be established by July 2018 – with support and advice from industry, academia and the third sector.

This board will make national decisions for investment, priorities and policy as well as working to achieve greater consistency in digital health and care.

A new health and social care portal will be created for citizens to access and update information about their health and wellbeing, including their records and from personal monitoring, and for health and social care professionals to be able to access, update and share relevant information about the individual being cared for.

This will build on work that is already been started on a health and social care services portal and developments such as NHS Inform.

By September 2018, NHS Education for Scotland, the Local Government Digital Office and the Scottish Social Services Council will have in place a clear approach to developing the workforce, including establishing the leadership roles, skills and experience that are needed and digital and data skills learning pathways, competencies and career paths across the health and social care workforce.

By 2020 there will be a national approach in place for information sharing across health and social care.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport Shona Robison said that the new would support more person-centred care.

She said: “From the outset, we have aimed to be inclusive and collaborative, drawing upon the wide range of experience, expertise, and perspectives available. 

“The new strategy represents a real opportunity to build on achievements to date and maximise the opportunities for digital for the future, supporting the more preventative, person-centred care that we want to see.”

The strategy was put together with input from an independent panel of UK and international experts, chaired by Professor David Bates of Harvard School of Public Health.

A range of engagement events with the public and with health and social care staff and technology experts, as well as the evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, also fed into the strategy.

Among the themes that were raised in these consultations was a need for greater integration, better data sharing, stronger national leadership for change and more scaling up rather than repeating the same things multiple times on a local level.

Alongside the digital health and care strategy, the expert panel has also published its own report into how digital technology can support health and care services in Scotland.

In his introduction to the report, Professor David Bates identifies Scotland as a leader internationally in areas such as technology-enabled care, but suggests the country lags behind in other areas.

These include patients not having online access to personal health and care records or the ability to make appointments online, that levels of electronic health records in hospitals is “patchy”, that much of the technology in use in general practice is old and that practitioners often need to use multiple different systems.

He also notes that social care providers are generally not digitally connected and that they do not have access to personal records.

He said: “Our panel was impressed by the commitment of those tasked with developing and improving Scotland’s health and care services through the use of technology. 

“The challenge now will be to build on these specific areas and ensure that digital technology and data science become mainstream in health and social care to reshape equip services for the future and further empower those using the services.

He added: “The new Digital Health and Care Strategy for Scotland is a key element in achieving that success, setting out the key priorities and objectives for this shared endeavour. 

“I urge all those with an interest in positioning Scotland as a digital leader to get involved.”

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