Daily Insight: Joining the digital era

The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Lloyd George’s legacy

Amid the national push to make patient records available electronically, NHS England has turned its attention to the oldest paper documents in the NHS.

The Lloyd George records — named after the late prime minister — remain in use across the NHS today despite dating back many decades.

In last year’s GP contract, NHSE committed to digitising all the records by 2022-23. This is an ambitious target given the time-consuming process required.

To (hopefully) make things easier, NHSE is planning to run an open framework for suppliers whose technologies can help with the digitisation. The framework is planned to be structured so that new suppliers can be added whenever, rather than being forced to wait until the framework expires and a new one is tendered.

While the framework will simplify the route to market, it may overlap with scanning services offered by another NHS quango — NHS Business Services Authority. Senior NHS figures have, however, previously questioned the value of such scanning projects in general, and whether they truly represent digital transformation.  

But, with new technologies emerging quickly, having a wider choice of suppliers — and a simpler way of procuring their services — appears to make sense.

Department swapping

Matt Hancock retained his post as health and social care secretary following Thursday’s reshuffle, but there is a new face at 39 Victoria Street.

Helen Whately has joined the Department of Health and Social Care as care minister, taking over from Caroline Dinenage. Ms Whatley, who is MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, joins the department after a five-month stint as arts minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Ms Whatley has her fair share of health credentials, having served on the Commons health and social care committee between 2015 and 2017. In her pre-politics life, she worked in the healthcare division of McKinsey & Company and has even contributed to HSJ

Ms Dinenage, on the other hand, has moved to DCMS as a minister. Her two-year stay at DHSC made her something of a department veteran, with the rest of the ministers — except Mr Hancock and Baroness Blackwood — having been in post for under a year. 

The path between DCMS and DHSC is a well-trodden one, with Mr Hancock and Jeremy Hunt having both served as culture secretary before becoming health secretary.

Elsewhere in government, two former health ministers were on the move. Chris Skidmore, who was health minister for a very brief period last year, lost his job as universities and science minister. Steve Barclay, who was health minister before becoming Brexit secretary, took the chief secretary to the Treasury role left vacant by newly-appointed chancellor Rishi Sunak.