The Government’s 'renewed commitment to supporting the rollout of shared care records in community pharmacy has been welcomed by PSNC.  

The policy paper Plan for Digital Health and Social Care, published on 29 June, outlines the Government's promise to 'support collaborative working through PCNs and neighbourhood teams, increasing integration of primary care with UEC [urgent and emergency care], community pharmacy and other services within ICSs, including providing safe and seamless access to patient records within defined roles by March 2025.' 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that 'rolling out electronic patient records in the NHS to drive efficiency will release billions of pounds back to the NHS,' confirming £2 billion has been earmarked from the spending review to help digitise the NHS and social care sector. 

Other key elements of the Government’s plan to digitally reform the NHS include: 

  •  Improvements to NHS notifications, including reminders for patients about Electronic Prescription Service prescription readiness 
  • A commitment for patients to be able to access video consultations through the NHS App by 2024 
  •  A commitment for health record information to be made available for patients via the NHS App by 2023 
  • More tailored support for patients from the NHS App, including enabling notifications directly from their GP. 
  • The plan aims to give patients 'access to quicker and more effective care at their fingertips,' DHSC said, and will 'save the health and care systems time and money'. 

PSNC said it welcomes the Government’s 'renewed ambition to modernise the NHS, particularly its commitment to supporting the rollout of Shared Care Records in community pharmacy, access to which all the evidence suggests greatly improves the quality of care that pharmacies can provide.' 

DHSC said the 'rapid expansion of use of technology,' including remote monitoring and virtual wards, will 'drive efficiency, free up hospital space and clinician time, and tackle the Covid backlogs.' 

It promised 'people across the country will benefit from faster, more personalised healthcare, following a digital revolution to make the health and social care system fit for the 21st century,' and that the digital reforms will 'deliver benefits over the next decade that could save billions in taxpayers’ money, while also promoting economic growth and private investment.' 

Increasing the availability of remote monitoring – where patients can use technology to keep an eye on their condition from home – means a further 500,000 people could be better supported by March 2023, DHSC said. 

'Over 280,000 people already used remote monitoring at home and in care homes for long-term conditions in the last year, freeing up hospital beds and saving clinicians’ valuable time,' DHSC said. 'This has resulted in improvements in patient outcomes – with problems picked up earlier, shorter stays in hospital, and fewer admissions in the first place.' 

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: 'We are embarking on a radical programme of modernisation that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048 – not 1948, when it was first established. 

'This plan builds on our data strategy to revolutionise digital health and care, which will enable patients to manage hospital appointments from the NHS App and take more control of their own care at home, picking up problems sooner and seeking help earlier. 

'Ensuring more personalisation and better join up of the system will benefit patients, free up clinician time, and help us to bust the COVID backlogs.' 

In addition to the investment in technology, the plan aims to bolster skills in the workforce by: 

  •  developing a national digital workforce strategy to bridge the skills gap and ensure the NHS remains an attractive place to work 
  • growing the specialist data and tech workforce through graduates, apprentices and experienced hires, creating an additional 10,500 positions 
  • embedding digital skills development into university curriculums to support future and incoming workforce 
  •  providing a digital learning offer for adult social care staff, such as offering accessible training and online resources. 

Dr Timothy Ferris, national director of transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said the plan 'puts more power and information at patients’ fingertips,' and gives staff 'the tools they need to deliver better and more joined-up services for those who need them.' 

Sarah Sweeney, head of policy at National Voices - the leading coalition of health and social care charities in England - said: 'We welcome the ambition to use technology as an enabler for joined up, personalised care. 

'We haven’t yet realised the full power of digital tools to help achieve person-centred, inclusive and accessible care for people and we have lots more to discover.' 

By March 2023, the Government says NHS App users will be able to: 

  •  book COVID-19 vaccines through the app, as well as the NHS website 
  •  receive NHS notifications and messaging, including reminders and alerts for Covid vaccine booking and prescription readiness 
  • start to see notifications and messaging sent from their GP through the NHS App 
  • start to view and manage hospital elective care appointments across participating trusts 
  •  see new information within their GP record by default, with the ability to request retrospective information at their practice 
  • access a user profile where they can set and manage contact details and register with a GP practice. 

Further ambitions for the NHS App will see features including improving access to screening services and enabling reminders, improving ease of access to child health records for parents and carers, and improving access to relevant clinical trials.