The Welsh Government has unlocked additional funding to move towards fully integrated digital services in healthcare.
Health minister Vaughan Gething announced new plans this week (30 September), supported by an extra £50m funding envelope, to create a standalone NHS Wales organisation and appoint a chief digital officer for health and care.
The funding forms part of the £192m included in the budget to support the delivery of the A Healthier Wales report, which sets out recommendations to strengthen digital services across the Welsh healthcare sector.
The BMA said this long overdue funding will help the medical profession, which has been struggling with ‘poor IT’ systems that have in turn impacted patient care.
It follows a six-month delay to the roll out of a new IT provider in Wales, after additional safety testing was needed.
‘Open digital architecture’
As part of the Digital Priorities Investment Fund, the money will help establish a new special health authority, replacing the current national software services supplier NHS Wales Informatics Services.
The new chief digital officer for health and social care will be tasked with defining national standards for digital software and services, ‘as part of moving to an open digital architecture’, Mr Gething said.
Overall, the funding will drive improvements across five themes including:
- Transforming digital services for patients and public;
- Transforming digital services for professionals;
- Investing in data and intelligent information;
- Modernising devices and moving to cloud services;
- Cyber-security and resilience.
The BMA’s Welsh council chair Dr David Bailey said: ‘We welcome [the] announcement on transforming digital health and care in Wales, this funding boost has been sorely needed for some years now. Medical professionals have been struggling with poor IT provision and patient care has been affected.
‘The appointment of an independent chair and board will also make it easier for those in charge to be held accountable. We look forward to seeing the full detail of the plans and the opportunity to feed into the upcoming strategic reviews, working towards a better future for doctors and patients across Wales’.
Mr Gething said: ‘Our long-term vision for the NHS, A Healthier Wales, sets out the importance of digital technology in the future of healthcare. It plays an absolutely essential role throughout the health service and in social care, and it empowers patients and the public to manage their own health and wellbeing.
‘I want everyone in Wales to have access to the highest quality digital health and care services, including professionals, the public and patients.’