The government's digital and care strategy has been welcomed by NHS leaders as a means of offering more personalised medicine and helping enable health and social care to have more joined up care.

The new strategy includes recommendations for remote monitoring and virtual wards to free up hospital space and clinician time as well as tackle the Covid care backlogs.

New features will also be added to the NHS app offering more personalised care from home, such as increasing patients’ access to their records and enabling notifications directly from their GP.

In the last year, 280,000 people have used remote monitoring at home and in care homes for long-term conditions. The government hopes that greater roll out will help improve patient outcomes with problems picked up earlier, shorter stays in hospital, and fewer admissions in the first place.

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at NHS Confederation, said: “NHS leaders welcome the digital health and care strategy and see it as an important step in joining up health and social care records digitally under one roof. This is essential for enabling better system working and will allow vital data to be shared more widely, helping staff to deliver better care for patients.  

“The plan presents an exciting opportunity not only to expand access to care via digital channels, but to accelerate the adoption of evidence-based technologies that will help make care more preventative, personalised and empowering for patients."

Dr Malte Gerhold, Director of Innovation and Improvement at the Health Foundation, added: "This plan is a welcome consolidation of the myriad of workstreams on tech and digital going on across the NHS and social care – which if properly aligned could add up to a good deal more than the sum of their parts.

"Steps like making better use of technology and data to support clinical decision making and manage population health could make a big difference to improving both quality of care and the way in which the health and care system uses its resources."

The government has earmarked £2 billion from the spending review to help digitise the NHS and social care sector, and this plan will help achieve that aim by rolling out electronic patient records in the NHS to drive efficiency which, in turn, it is hoped will release billions of pounds back to the NHS.

National digital workforce strategy

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "We are embarking on a radical programme of modernisation that will make sure the NHS is set up to meet the challenges of 2048 – not 1948, when it was first established.

"This plan builds on our data strategy to revolutionise digital health and care, which will enable patients to manage hospital appointments from the NHS App and take more control of their own care at home, picking up problems sooner and seeking help earlier.

"Ensuring more personalisation and better join up of the system will benefit patients, free up clinician time, and help us to bust the Covid backlogs."

The health secretary also announced that a national digital workforce strategy will be developed to bridge the skills gap and ensure the NHS remains an attractive place to work. This will include data and tech staff.

Adult social care staff will also be offered accessible training and online resources so as to promote the use of digital health and social care records.

Ambitions for the NHS App

Further ambitions for the NHS App will see features including improving access to screening services and enabling reminders, improving ease of access to child health records for parents and carers, and improving access to relevant clinical trials.

Simon Bolton, Chief Executive at NHS Digital, said: "Technology is central in empowering patients and giving them more control when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

"The NHS App has changed the way millions of adults in England access healthcare services in the 3 years since its launch and these new features will go further to improve how patients can manage their health and to reduce the burden on the frontline.

"We are committed to working with our partners across health and social care to deliver the digitally enabled transformation of the NHS and create a system which provides better outcomes and access for patients."