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Reports, resolutions, and position papers

Preparing the healthcare workforce to deliver the digital future: an independent report on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Overview

The workforce is also changing: millennials have new expectations and most people seek a good work-life balance through flexible careers. The NHS Long Term Plan identifies the need for more healthcare workers to respond to this increasing demand. Digital healthcare technologies, defined here as genomics, digital medicine, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, should not just be seen as increasing costs, but rather as a new means of addressing the big healthcare challenges of the 21st century.

The UK has the potential to become a world leader in these healthcare technologies and this Review anticipates how technological innovation will impact the roles and functions of healthcare staff over the next two decades. Our review of the evidence leads us to suggest that these technologies will not replace healthcare professionals, but will enhance them (‘augment them’), giving them more time to care for patients. Some professions will be more affected than others, but the impact on patient outcomes should in all cases be positive. Patients will be empowered to participate more fully in their own care.

This ground-breaking Review has sought expert opinion from across the UK and overseas. This is the first time that such a wide breadth of expertise has been brought together to anticipate and debate the impact of technological innovation on the NHS workforce. With patients placed firmly at the centre of our discussions, this report is the culmination of an extensive literature review, interviews, expert meetings and roundtables. We had an overwhelming response to the call for evidence from individuals and organisations, with responses from hundreds of patient representatives, professional groups, industry, education, regulators and national bodies.

Within 20 years, 90% of all jobs in the NHS will require some element of digital skills. Staff will need to be able to navigate a data-rich healthcare environment. All staff will need digital and genomics literacy. This Review is about both the existing and the future workforce. We need to tackle differences in the digital literacy of the current workforce linked to age or place of work. The next decade presents an opportunity to address data governance and cyber security concerns, agree ethical frameworks and develop NHS staff/organisations to implement genomics and digital technologies in the workplace. The complexity of data governance requirements should not be a reason for inaction. Most importantly, there must be mechanisms in place to ensure advanced technology does not dehumanise care. While automation will improve efficiency, it should not replace human interaction.

This Review proposes three principles to support the deployment of digital healthcare technologies throughout the NHS:

    1. Patients need to be included as partners and informed about health technologies, with a particular focus on vulnerable/marginalised groups to ensure equitable access.
    2. The healthcare workforce needs expertise and guidance to evaluate new technologies, using processes grounded in real-world evidence.
    3. The gift of time: wherever possible the adoption of new technologies should enable staff to gain more time to care, promoting deeper interaction with patients.

Genomics, digital medicine and AI will have a major impact on patient care in the future. A number of emerging technologies, including low-cost sequencing technology, telemedicine, smartphone apps, biosensors for remote diagnosis and monitoring, speech recognition and automated image interpretation, will be particularly important for the healthcare workforce.

This content is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0

Key Information

Jurisdiction: UK - UK-wide

Name of organisation: NHS

Date published: 2 Jan 2019

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