Language and leadership needed for the government’s new ‘tech vision’ to become reality

Language and leadership needed for the government’s new ‘tech vision’ to become reality

The Health Secretary Rt Hon Matt Hancock recently launched his new tech vision at an event organised by HIN, on behalf of NHS England. The vision is good news for digital innovation, but there’s still much more to do. Here, our Head of Technology, Denis Duignan, highlights some of its main features.

Last week, Matt Hancock launched the government’s new bold ‘tech vision’ to a room full of SMEs and NHS digital leaders at our event in London.

He spoke with credible enthusiasm as he outlined his views on how we achieve lasting digital progress. His vision is for the NHS to lead the world in digital healthcare, just as the U.K. has been a leader in Fin Tech, as the NHS already has the essential ingredients. This recognition of the NHS’ strong points, or ‘ingredients’ was good to hear – it’s too easy for those of us working in the system to forget. But the hard part isn’t individual components – it’s connecting these ingredients up in a truly modern architecture, so that systems talk to each other and patients and staff lives are easier.

The government’s desire to learn from the past is evident in the document’s focus on getting the national and local split correct. Mandating open standards at a national level is a key part of this, as is secure identity. But we need to retain local system flexibility. The architectural principles set out in the vision are:

  •         put our tools in modern browsers
  •         internet first
  •         public cloud first
  •         build a data layer with registers and APIs
  •         adopt the best cyber security standards
  •         separate the layers of our patient record stack: hosting, data and digital services.

These are sound principles. The focus on enabling healthtech innovation is equally promising and we hope something that signals a new era of support for healthtech innovators in and outside of the NHS. That being said, although the document speaks a lot about interoperability, with open standards and APIs providing the framework for modular IT systems, how level the playing field will really be in future remains to be seen. This is especially of concern to SMEs with products that require interaction with the established principle clinical systems, where quite often they need to pay significant ‘partnership’ fees to achieve satisfactory timely outcomes.

Some of the statements will raise a few (more cynical) eyebrows: “All new IT systems purchased by the NHS will be required to meet the standards we set out and existing services will need to be upgraded to meet these standards.” While the ambition is correct, many will wait with bated breath to see how this will practically play out for certain NHS organisations, especially those where particular suppliers are deeply entrenched or those with bespoke or heavily customised systems.

The language throughout the document is clearer than many policy documents in this space and feels like a step in the right direction. It says clearly: ‘This is not an IT project’ before going on to focus on ways of working. Those of us who regularly work on tech innovation projects know only too well that as long as tech is seen as just an ‘IT project’ we will struggle to realise the full benefits. Success depends on effective change management and changes in working cultures and habits.

Changing culture is hard. Leadership helps. For that reason, it’s also positive to see the focus on leadership in the vision. At the launch event a number of people talked about leadership and the difficulty of finding genuinely tech-savvy Boards. When it comes to finance, Boards can scrutinise the numbers. When it comes to people or projects, they can look at the staff survey or project plans. With IT, it can be a case of Boards just looking to a CIO and hoping for the best. Computer Weekly recently reported that even “at Leeds Teaching Hospitals  – a great example of a forward-thinking health organisation – there are 460 different IT systems in use.”  It’s not easy for Boards to get to grips with complex legacy situations like that.

The vision is clear about the need for this to change, saying that that tech transformation needs to be driven by leaders at every level. It goes on to say ‘all health and care organisations should ensure board-level understanding of how data and technology drives their services and strategies, and take charge of the digital maturity of their organisations – in the same way that they manage their finances and the quality of their services.’ In an effort to make sure Boards take that language seriously, the government is looking to regulatory and system levers, saying it will ask the Care Quality Commission (CQC) ‘how best to reflect the standards in their inspections of NHS and social care providers, and NHS Improvement and NHS Digital to work together on the use of spend controls to enforce the use of standards when procuring new systems for the NHS, looking at additional controls for spend on systems and services that are below current thresholds.’

On workforce, the report says the aim is that skilled professionals already working in the health and care system are supported to continuously develop, and that structures are in place to make innovation and information exchange easier through empowering and creating headspace for frontline staff. While this is a fine ambition and progress is being made through the likes of the NHS Digital Academy and the HIN’s IM&T Grads into Health Programme, there is still no mention of addressing the unsuitability of Agenda of Change pay scales for this staff group or adjusting training pathways and certain curriculums to increase numbers and the baseline knowledge required to make this vision a reality.

There’s no new money attached to the document and there’s no point underestimating the sheer scale of what we need to achieve. But the proposals it sets out, the focus on leadership and the language used to tell us that this isn’t an IT project, are a strong step in the right direction.

The government is currently consulting on the vision. You can take part here

If you’re working in health and care in south London and would like support with a technology innovation project, contact Denis and the team via  

Dr Natasha Curran joins the Health Innovation Network as Medical Director

Dr Natasha Curran joins the Health Innovation Network as Medical Director

The Health Innovation Network, south London’s leading innovation hub for health and care, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Natasha Curran as the organisation’s new Medical Director.

Tara Donnelly, Chief Executive, Health Innovation Network, said:

I’m delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Natasha Curran as our Medical Director. Natasha is an extremely patient-focused clinician, with a wealth of experience in quality improvement and clinical leadership. She has also run services in both community and acute settings in pain and musculoskeletal care and brings valuable knowledge of the wider London health system.

“Her innovative and collaborative approach will be a real asset to us as we continue to grow the support we offer to our members across the Academic Health Science Network. I’m very much looking forward to working closely with Natasha on our wide range of projects to speed up the best in health and care.”

Natasha was appointed Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust in 2008. She was the first doctor to be awarded Fellowship of the Faculty of Pain Medicine by assessment in the same year. She led the UCLH Pain Service from 2013-2018. Natasha has a considerable publication record, has authored NICE guidance for endometriosis, is a reviewer and advisor to UCL’s Perioperative Medicine and Pain Management MSc Programmes, and represents London on NHS England’s Clinical Reference Group for Specialised Pain. Most recently, Natasha has been Clinical Lead for a partnership providing the musculoskeletal service across the London Borough of Camden.

Natasha will continue her clinical interest within the complex pain service at UCLH one day a week while working as Medical Director at the Health Innovation Network. She is also a member of Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body.

Prof Richard Barker OBE, Chair, Health Innovation Network, said:

I’m delighted to welcome Natasha to the Health Innovation Network executive team. She brings broad clinical expertise and further credibility to our programmes. Appointments like this are further evidence that leaders in the NHS view the Academic Health Science Networks as major players in the vital transformation of the health service.”

Dr Natasha Curran said:

I passionately believe that we work more productively and more creatively when we work together. Taking up this position as Medical Director is an incredible opportunity to work across financial, clinical, geographical and sector silos to transform care and change outcomes for the better.

“Working as a clinician for the past 20 years, I have seen countless examples of incredible innovation in the NHS, across a wide range of settings and disciplines. I’m looking forward to using this expertise to help unlock innovation across south London, working closely with colleagues across the AHSN Network.”

Natasha will formally take up her role at the end of June 2018.

The Health Innovation Network is one of 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) created to accelerate innovation across the NHS and social care. England’s 15 AHSNs were set up by the NHS in 2013 to work across all sectors involved in health and care – the NHS, social care, public health, universities, the voluntary sector and industry. They connect people and organisations, identifying innovative ways to do things better and cheaper.

Since 2013 AHSNs have benefited over 6m patients, with more than 200 innovations spread throughout 11,000 locations. Over £330 million has been leveraged to support health and care services, with more than 500 jobs created. In July 2017 NHS England announced that the AHSNs will be relicensed from April 2018 to operate as the key innovation arm of the NHS.

For examples of the AHSN innovation projects visit the AHSN Atlas.

Support for the deployment of GP online consultation systems in south London

Support for the deployment of GP online consultation systems in south London

Since its inception, Health Innovation Network’s Technology team has been interested in how new communications technologies offer the opportunity to enhance healthcare interactions. Such interactions could include clinical consultations between a GP or specialist and a patient in general practice or hospital outpatients’ department. They could also include discussions between professionals, for instance:

  • A multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting in a hospital/community setting
  • A GP seeking the input of an expert specialist.

In July 2016,we undertook a review of the Hurley Group’s ‘eConsult’ (formerly ‘WebGP’) platform, in which we sought to understand the nature and extent of this particular opportunity to transform access to general practice. More recently, we have undertaken work to promote the spread and adoption, specifically, of video-based remote consultation in hospitals—often generically referred to as ‘Skype clinics’.

Given the announcement in October 2017 of NHS England’s GP Online Consultation Systems Fund, Health Innovation Network’s Technology team is now exploring how it could be of support to CCGs and GPs in south London as they progress plans to introduce or further develop provision for GP online consultation.

We are well-aware that CCGs across south London are by no means lacking in ambition where digital transformation is concerned, and many are already forging ahead with enhancements to primary care provision with online consultation solutions of one form or another at their heart. We watch these developments with great interest and excitement.

We would be interested to hear from colleagues across south London to understand your plans for offering GP online consultation, and to discuss how can best support you in this endeavour. We are in the process of engaging CCGs across the patch, but if you would like to discuss this support opportunity further now, please contact Tim Burdsey, Technology Project Manager at We look forward to hearing from you—and to working with you, to help realise your digital ambitions for primary care and for your wider local health and care system.

Speeding up the best in mental health together

Speeding up the best in mental health together

Speeding up the best in mental health together with the four SIM London pathfinder NHS Trusts, South West London and St. George’s Mental Health trust, South London and Maudsley, Oxleas, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust alongside the Metropolitan Police is a pioneering mental health project for the Health Innovation Network.

SIM London is a new way of working with mental health service users who experience a high number of mental health crisis events. SIM brings mental health professionals and police officers together into joint mentoring teams. The police officer and the mental health professional work together to provide intensive support service users to reduce high frequency and high-risk crisis behaviours.

Central to SIM is the Care and Response Plan completed by the service user, SIM Police officer and the SIM Mental Health professional.

‘SIM London is the start of a revolution for the co-production of 1st person singular care plans.’
Dr Geraldine Strathdee, Clinical Director, Health Innovation Network Implementation team

SIM developed by Paul Jennings (recipient of multiple awards) on the Isle of Wight, has gone from strength to strength in terms of the lives improved, fewer 999 calls, fewer Emergency Department attendances and fewer hospital admissions.

SIM is going national, the benefits of the involvement of the HIN in leading the London pathfinder implementation, the new sites will we be able to measure. We will share resources, highlight obstacles and solutions and capture and spread the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm we are encountering to implement the programme.

SIM London pathfinder sites are due to go live April 2018

Learn more about SIM and the High Intensity Network here.

To speak to someone about the project, please contact Aileen Jackson, Mental Health lead on or Josh Brewster, Project Manager on

Hundreds of Londoner’s have pulse check after Mayor Sadiq Khan urges #knowyourpulse

Hundreds of Londoner’s have pulse check after Mayor Sadiq Khan urges #knowyourpulse

With 60,000 undiagnosed with the most common type of irregular heartbeat Atrial Fibrillation (AF) that can lead to a stroke, it’s important to #knowyourpulse.

The mayor’s message was backed by NHS England Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh who issued a video message that can be viewed here urging people to #knowyourpulse. This campaign was backed up by the three London Academic Health Science Networks who ran free drop-in pulse check’s across the capital.

A simple, 30 second pulse rhythm check – either performed manually or using one of a range of new devices – can identify AF so that treatment can be provided.

The call comes after the Mayor had a test himself for Global AF Aware Week (20-26 November). The Mayor’s message can be viewed here.

At least 9,000 people were directly alerted to the campaign through Facebook and Twitter and the video messages have been viewed more than 1,000 times.

Over 150,0000 Londoners are affected by AF and of these an estimated 60,000 remain undiagnosed. Nationally, as the most common type of irregular heartbeat, AF is responsible for approximately 20% of all strokes. Stroke survivors must live with the disabling consequences and treating the condition costs the NHS across England over £2.2 billion each year.

This year’s Global AF Aware Week message was ‘Identifying the Undiagnosed Person with AF’. Londoners are being encouraged to spread the word about irregular heartbeats and urge friends and family – particularly those aged over 65 – to check their pulse and see a GP if it is irregular.

Pulse checks can be done manually (a British Heart Foundation video and guide shows how here) or through technology, with irregular rhythms investigated further by healthcare professionals.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

“More than 150,0000 Londoners have the most common type of irregular heartbeat, which is called Atrial Fibrillation or AF, and are at higher risk of a stroke. Not everyone with AF has symptoms and a simple pulse rhythm check could save their life.

“I’m urging Londoners to have a free, 30-second pulse check this week during international AF Awareness Week. You can do this at one of the many awareness events happening across the capital this week, or ask your doctor or nurse.”

Professor Gary Ford, Stroke Physician and Chair of the AHSN Network Atrial Fibrillation Group, said:

“More than 60,000 Londoners are unaware they have Atrial Fibrillation which is responsible for 1 in 5 strokes. We have highly effective treatments that reduce the risk of stroke in people with AF.

“During Global AF Aware Week I am urging everyone, but particularly those over 65 to have their pulse rhythms checked. This simple check could prevent a stroke, which can have a devastating impact on their lives.

“I fully support the Mayor of London in his call for Londoners to have a simple check so that we can prevent strokes and ultimately, save lives and prevent long term disability.”

Health Innovation Network awarded ‘excellence’ level of London Healthy Workplace Charter

Health Innovation Network awarded ‘excellence’ level of London Healthy Workplace Charter


Following the success of the Health Innovation Network’s (HIN) ‘Commitment’ and ‘Achievement’ award, we are pleased to announce that the HIN has been awarded top level of ‘Excellence’ in the London Healthy Workplace Charter following an assessment which took place on 31 October. The Charter gives recognition to organisations that have put in place a range of systems to support employees, and create opportunities to cultivate happier and healthier workplace.

With approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year1 and 8.9 million working days lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2016/172, organisations have become more proactive in ensuring staff wellbeing is at the forefront in all that they do. The HIN has been leading the way with various initiatives that have been specifically put in place to support its workforce, such as:

  • Free yoga and mindfulness classes
  • Standing up desks
  • Mental health awareness training
  • Access to showers to encourage physical exercise, such as cycling to work
  • Book and running clubs
  • Opportunities to trial and feedback on wellbeing apps, such as, Headspace, My Possible Self and LiveSmart.

For more information on the charter, please contact Eric Barratt on



HIN out and about in London

HIN out and about in London

Find out what our HIN team has been up to recently, and some events we’ve taken part in or led.

Technology & Informatics

On 13 September, our T&I team visited Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, just outside of Manchester. They learned about an innovation set up by the hospital called Digital Health Centre aimed at reducing the number of unnecessary attendances at Tameside Hospital’s A&E department through the use of Skype. The learning pilot, which has extended the number of local care and residential homes involved, focuses on when patients within the homes become unwell, staff will have the option to Skype a dedicated registered nurse at the Trust who will be on hand to give expert advice and guidance throughout a video conversation. This has already reduced the number of attendances to A&E. The team learned about innovative techniques being used in other parts of the country, and took on board the advice provided by the team to aid some of their projects.

Musculoskeletal (MSK)

Supported by Arthritis Research UK, the MSK theme successfully organised the annual ESCAPE-pain conference which was held on 11 September as Guy’s Hospital. Sarah Ruane, Strategic Lead at Sport England to our very Innovation Fellow, Andrew Walker took to the stage to present to a full room of delegates who were keen to share best practice and ideas. Read more on the event here.


Paul Wallace, Clinical Director for the alcohol theme presented a paper at the International Network on Brief Interventions for Alcohol and Other Drugs Conference in New York on “Use of SMS texts for facilitating access to online alcohol interventions – a feasibility study”. This is a presentation of the pilot project undertaken with three GP practices in Kingston.