NHS sets out vision for IT-enabled, research-facilitating future

Tim Kelsey--Courtesy of NHS

The United Kingdom government has set out its vision for how the National Health Service (NHS) will transform into a tech-savvy, research-enabling organization by 2020. As part of the wide-reaching strategy, NHS England will create "test bed" sites at which bioinformatics approaches and other tools will be tested.

NHS England plans to locate the sites alongside the existing Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), a collection of autonomous bodies tasked with identifying and adopting new technologies. British and foreign organizations will be able to bid to have their technology trialed at the test sites. The AHSNs will also have a role in establishing "Technology for Care" innovation centers, some of which will be based on the Catapult sites established by the government to turn ideas into products.

While the test sites will exist on the periphery of the NHS, other aspects of the proposals call for the core healthcare operation to adopt technology. The NHS has a poor track record implementing IT, but management is willing to take a tough approach. "We have to draw a line in the sand and say you have to go digital by 2018-2020 or you won't get paid," Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England, told The Register.

Other research-related aspects of the digital strategy include a call for the AHSNs to work with companies and other parts of the government to establish data services in support of drug discovery. The AHSNs will be involved in similar collaborations to increase the use of real-world data in drug R&D. Plans to use patient data for such research has been met with opposition, something the Department of Health hopes to overcome by talking to the public, industry and other groups.

- read the report
- here's The Register's take

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