Digital transformation – a new direction for the AHSN

22nd September 2021

Dave Belshaw, writes his first blog since taking up the role of Digital Transformation Director late last year in which he offers an insight into what the last nine months has looked like for him and what the future holds for the AHSN NENC’s Digital Transformation team.

Since coming into post in December of 2020 it has been a large part of my role to get out there and meet lots of people involved in digital projects, plans and strategy to try and understand how the AHSN NENC can add value in a complex and ever demanding sector in terms of health and social care.

I don’t need to explain just how much impact digital has had over the course of the pandemic, from home working for staff to video consultations with your GP, the landscape has changed, and the demands keep growing for intelligent digital solutions to manage workload and improve care, diagnosis, and treatment.

Historically, digital for the AHSN NENC meant investment and support for regional flagship opportunities like Great North Care Record, Health Call and CDRC Precision – all fantastic regional achievements with many important partners.

More recently it has meant flying the flag for the region and ‘stepping up’ to secure and manage investments from NHSX for regional scaling programmes looking at remote monitoring and improving patient care during the pandemic.

  • We supported the roll out of the Health Call Digital Care Home platform to around 280 care homes, reaching around 6,000 residents. Read more here.
  • We helped Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust to develop and roll out the Tees Remote ECG pathway, making a huge difference to people who need specific monitoring on certain medications – the patient survey results say it all! This was so successful NHSX adopted it as a national opportunity and secured devices to pump prime a roll out across England, and the contributors have been shortlisted for a number of awards.
  • We also supported the development of a digital hypertension pathway being slowly adopted by primary care and running alongside the wider BP@ home programme.

So what next? Well, all the online, networking and relationship building is starting to pay off.

Over this year we will deliver a second round of NHSX investment alongside NHS England colleagues, focused on further strengthening existing work but also into new areas such as paediatric palliative care and annual physical health checks for people on the SMI register.

We have agreed with our primary care colleagues to establish an Innovation Hub to help promote and manage digital innovation. We will set up and run a Digital Champions programme, again match funded with primary care, and establish a community of practice.

Of significant importance to us is the issue of digital inclusion; how do we ensure that new digital solutions and innovations at the very least do not make exclusion worse, but at best close that gap and make service more accessible and inclusive? We will have a programme of activity aimed at promoting new practice but also shining a constant light on this as an area of importance.

We recently grew the team with two new appointments, one to support a programme with North of Tyne Combined Authority and partners to support digital innovations and SME growth, who will also develop some expertise around regulation and approval. The second new team member will work alongside clinical colleagues and the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System  (NENC ICS) to help shape the future digital agenda and what the vision is to support the overall ICS digital strategy, also focusing on Artificial Intelligence to become an AHSN resource we can also use to support our partners.

From this work will grow a programme of system transformation, of unmet needs and gaps we can work alongside industry and commercial colleagues to fill. We will maximise the opportunities presented to us by innovators and connect them with health and care staff to facilitate collaborations within the health and care sectors.

Digital now means inclusion and transformation, bit by bit! Over the coming months my colleagues will tell you more about our various activities, starting with Charlotte Fox, our Digital Transformation Programme Manager, who will focus on our Digital Inclusion event series and much more.

By the way, over the last eight months my fingers have developed a muscle memory which means every time I try to type digital, and I mean every time, it reads digtial, it is the single most annoying part of my job as I type that word hundreds of times a day and have to correct it every time. So please forgive me if my next email asks you about some digtial activity.