NHS organisations are failing to get basic IT right, says NHS England director

Speaking at UK e-Health Week today (15 May), Matthew Swindells, NHS England National Director, Operations and Information, urged organisations to address issues with ‘basic IT’ in an effort to start moving towards a ‘personalised, data-led, fast to deploy new innovations’ system.


[London, UK] The failure of NHS organisations to deliver basic IT is compromising system-wide transformation, delegates at UK e-Health Week heard today (15 May).

Matthew Swindells, NHS England National Director, Operations and Information, said the ‘credibility problem’ of the NHS stems from its inability to get core functionalities right when it comes to the use of information and technology.

“We’re investing millions of pounds in technology, yet we’ve got six organisations that still can’t tell us what their waiting lists are.

“If this is one of your organisation, this is not acceptable,” Swindells said, explaining that Barts Health had not submitted a referral to treatment report in nearly four years.

Pointing to an opportunity to develop a ‘new type of health system’, described as ‘personalised, data-led, fast to deploy new innovations’, Swindells told delegates that these issues would need to be addressed immediately.  

The necessary system redesign, underpinned by technology, would have to be focused on empowering patients to manage their own health and care with the help of trusted digital tools.

But this requires the development of an ecosystem that allows people to innovate and to be disruptive, to create apps that can have a real impact, with the help of hiqh quality data, the director added.

Throughout his speech, Swindells reiterated that the health system would need to be centred around a ‘population health focus’ rather than a ‘transaction focus’, leveraging its data, which could help eliminate unwarranted variation.

“It shouldn’t be the case that you get better care if you live next door to a teaching hospital than if you leave in a small coastal town.

“That variation is unacceptable and we can use technology to drive that out. So, we have a vision for a future of the NHS that is personalised, driven by evidence, frictionless, designed around the needs of the patients rather than the needs of the institution,” he added.

Swindells said the Local Health and Care Record Exemplars, due to be announced shortly, would help drive this vision, providing a platform to deliver ‘real time population health management’:

“I think we have the pieces, but we need to get the infrastructure right, we need to get data security right, we need to get people taking information governance seriously, because one of the things that will undermine all of this is losing the confidence of the public.

“But if we can move that forward, then I think we’re on the cusp of a revolution."

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Leontina Postelnicu

To share tips, news or announcements, contact the writer on lpostelnicu@himss.org

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