Embracing digital innovation: findings from the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

An unfocussed image of a clinician, superimposed with a futuristic spiral illustrating technology in medicine.

In an era of widespread digital innovation, the recently released NHS Long Term Workforce Plan recognises the crucial role technology will play in meeting the current and future healthcare needs of the population. Leveraging these innovations will support organisations and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to drive cost efficiencies, boost recruitment, and retain healthcare workers. In this article, we explore the key areas of the plan that highlight the role technology will play in achieving the NHS’s ambitious workforce objectives.


Leveraging administrative automation

Studies have indicated that over 70% of clinicians’ working time is spent on administrative duties, which is currently creating a significant barrier to driving organisational efficiencies. However, the Plan recognises that a considerable portion of this manual work can be either partly or fully automated. By identifying areas for potential automation, NHS organisations can streamline workflows, reduce the burden of manual tasks on clinicians, and increase overall productivity. The ultimate goal is to free up valuable time for healthcare professionals to focus on patient care delivery, while also improving both efficiency and job satisfaction.


Aligning with the government’s Data Strategy for Health and Social Care

Following the recommendations set out in the government’s Data Strategy for Health and Social Care, the Plan highlights that robust data systems and digitally-enabled care are essential for effective long-term healthcare delivery. ICSs are encouraged to adopt digital platforms collectively, which support data-driven staff deployment and more strategic workforce decision-making across organisations. Crucially, this includes e-rostering and e-job planning platforms, which offer benefits such as improved workforce management, increased financial efficiencies, reduced vacancies, and faster rostering processes. By embracing the government’s data strategy, NHS organisations can implement digital platforms that optimise workforce planning and decision-making, contributing to more effective and efficient healthcare delivery.


Upskilling the workforce

Embracing digital advancements requires healthcare professionals to adopt new ways of working. To support this transition, NHS organisations must invest in upskilling their workforce through training, development programs, and ongoing support. By equipping healthcare professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to utilise digital tools effectively, organisations can ensure that the integration of any new technology is smooth and successful in the long term. In addition to upskilling the NHS workforce more broadly, there should also be a focus on developing specialist digital roles, designed specifically to drive innovation, support the implementation of new technologies, and create exciting career opportunities for individuals passionate about digital healthcare.


Investing financially in digital

The successful adoption of digital innovations within the NHS requires continued financial investment, from organisational and ICS-wide budgets, to long-term government funding. The Plan notes that to ensure funding is being utilised in the most effective and cost-efficient way, ongoing feedback, analysis and evaluation of all new technology and its impact must be made a priority. By investing in technologies and closely monitoring their effects, the NHS can refine its approach to digital, address challenges, and ensure that healthcare professionals are well-prepared to navigate a new digital landscape.


The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan recognises the transformative potential of digital innovations in healthcare. By embracing administrative automation, following the government’s data strategy, upskilling the workforce, and investing in digital, the NHS has the potential to streamline workflows, empower healthcare professionals, and enhance patient care delivery. As the NHS continues to evolve, it is crucial that organisations and ICSs leverage the full potential of new technologies to successfully meet the changing healthcare needs of the population. By doing so, the NHS will be better equipped to achieve its stretching productivity goals and deliver high-quality care to all.

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