Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed £2.1billion for NHS IT upgrades and digital health technology in today’s budget.

The funding will cover “innovative use of digital technology to allow hospitals and other care providers to become as efficient and connected as possible”.

We ask professionals in the tech channel for their reaction to this promised investment in digital tech in hospitals.

Gareth Johns, Senior Director Vertical Solutions at RingCentral:

The UK government’s £5.9billion investment to improve digital tech and help people with more community care in today’s budget is great to see. At RingCentral, we have seen how outdated legacy solutions often cause delays and put significant strain on resources for healthcare professionals. Any investment that seeks to combat this is welcome. We’ve seen how telemedicine and telehealth have helped many to access care throughout the pandemic, while cloud communications technology has improved communications for primary care (GPs), enabling better collaboration between practitioners and more efficient processes for patients too.

Ultimately, whether it’s back-end cloud solutions or patient-facing telehealth services, secure, robust and reliable technology is a must if we are to deliver a more friction-free and productive patient journey. The investment in this week’s budget will hopefully not only help ease the strain on healthcare professionals, particularly as Covid-19 remains an issue, but also bring about a greater service for us all.”

As the government plans to inject an extra £5.9bn into the NHS to address the pressing backlog issues, it’s important to remember that modern technology and intelligent automation are also key elements to speed up COVID-19 recovery within the health service says Peter Wilson, Public Sector Industry Architect at Pegasystems.

 “Today’s announcement of new funding for technology to address NHS backlogs is certainly great news. But it is important that it doesn’t create new problems for the future. There’s a danger that projects may create shiny new digital technology siloes when the real need is for technology that enables truly unified administrative processes to help clinicians and patients alike. For tackling the backlog, it’s essential to have a unifying platform that can better automate patient data processing to ensure queues for medical appointments and treatments are reduced rapidly and fairly. This includes a more widespread use of intelligent automation and AI to help on decision-making and better patient outcomes in terms of when they are seen, treated, and provided with after-care

Vijay Magon, managing director at CCube Solutions – a supplier of electronic document and records management software to the NHS says:

New money for NHS IT is of course welcome.  But spending should be highly focused. The Johnson Government should avoid a ‘top down’ approach where IT is foisted upon Trusts. That just doesn’t work as evidenced by the National Programme of IT debacle during the Tony Blair years. New money should be targeted on obvious problem areas which could provide quick and easy wins for the NHS to boost efficiency, improve patient safety and save money in the long run. Take patient records. Twelve years after St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust removed paper records from operational practice, around 50% of UK Trusts have still to get rid of their medical records libraries – the running of which wastes millions every year. Many Trusts have now successfully done it – so the followers can learn from the early adopters – with the financial rewards quite eye-watering.  Over the past 10 years, more than £35 million has been saved by just three of our customers alone through the removal of paper-based processes and libraries.  And with the acceptance of cloud and subscription payment models, a rollout is faster, less complex and easier for time-pressed IT departments.  The time is right to finally grapple with this for the 100+ Trusts who have yet to do it.”

Adam Wilson, Strategic Partner Director at Vonage said

“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused huge disruption across industries, and healthcare providers in particular have been under considerable pressure to deliver vital services in the face of a global crisis. However, medical providers have embraced new technologies to mitigate these challenges. For example, telemedicine, in particular video appointments, has proven to be a safe, cost-effective, and popular method for operating a range of healthcare services. From the initial consultation to diagnostics, treatment, and monitoring, digital solutions are helping providers to widen access to care and improve efficiency and waiting times. 

We know from our own consumer research, conducted during the pandemic, that communication with patients remains one of the core challenges for healthcare systems, especially when it comes to arranging appointments and sharing important information. This issue is endemic across public sector organisations, but is especially important considering the serious nature of healthcare comms. This new budget will be warmly welcomed by overstretched services, and can be used to redesign and improve omnichannel and unified communications strategies to ensure that patients and providers are able to make the best use of the UK’s enviable healthcare system.”