NHS England and Improvement board papers have revealed the organisation hopes digital and data will help drive system working as well as connecting health and care providers.

Part of the papers included a report which looked into the next steps of integrating care systems across England. The 2019 Long Term Plan said the NHS should move towards health and care being joined up locally around people’s needs.

The board papers state it intends to open up discussions “with the NHS and its partners about how ICSs [Integrated Care Systems] could be embedded in legislation or guidance”.

While a number of ICSs have been set up across England, the paper adds that in order for the goals outlined in the Long Term Plan to be achieved all parts of the health and care system need to be working together as ICSs by April 2021.

The use of data and digital is listed as one way in which the health system could achieve this target.

However in order to ‘fulfil the potential of digital and data’ a number of requirements need to be met.

This includes:

  • build smart digital and data foundations
  • connect health and care services
  • use digital and data to transform care
  • put the citizen at the centre of their care

Other key mentions include having “clear board accountability for data and digital, including a member of the ICS Partnership Board being a named SRO [senior responsible officer]”.

The paper also states that there needs to be a “system-wide digital transformation plan” which should “should outline the three year journey to digitally-driven, citizen-centred care”.

There is also calls for investment in the infrastructure which will be needed to deliver this plan.

“This will include shared contracts and platforms to increase resiliency, digitise operational services and create efficiencies, from shared data centres to common EPRs,” the paper adds.

Aside from digital, the report also makes recommendations about simplifying the procurement rules “by scrapping section 75 of the 2012 Act and remove the commissioning of NHS healthcare services from the jurisdiction of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015”.