The health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, has pledged almost half a billion pounds to transform technology in the NHS.
In his first speech since being appointed to the post, Hancock will announce a £487m funding package to create “the most advanced health system in the world”. He will vow to drive cultural change within the NHS and social care sector, working with staff to embrace the latest technology in order to reduce their workload and improve patient care.
Addressing staff at West Suffolk hospital, Hancock will list technology, the workforce and prevention of illness as his early top priorities. “From today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming,” he will say. “The opportunities of new technology, done right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”
About £412m will be made available to transform technology in hospitals, to improve care and give more patients access to health services at home. A further £75m will be made available for trusts to replace paper-based systems with electronic systems, in an attempt to reduce medication errors.
Setting out his vision for the NHS, the former secretary for digital, culture, media and sport will say: “In all my experience, the small part is finding or inventing the technology. The big part is embedding a culture of always looking for the best possible technology and embracing it.
“I want to drive that culture change. And I want to work with everyone across the NHS and social care system to embrace the next generation of technology.”
The appointment of Hancock, after Jeremy Hunt was moved to the Foreign Office, comes as the NHS develops a 10-year plan for its future. Theresa May has pledged to boost funding by about £20bn a year in real terms by 2024.
Hancock will say it is important to “make the most” of the extra cash by keeping people out of hospital. “We must take a holistic approach to prevention. To reduce overprescription of unsophisticated drugs in favour of approaches like social prescribing, which address someone’s physical and mental wellbeing. To make the investment in primary care and community pharmacies so people don’t need to go to hospital. To empower people to keep themselves more healthy at home.”
Hancock will also hail the contribution of health and social care staff, saying it is “heartbreaking” to see how often many feel undervalued. “I am determined that the commitment you show to your patients is matched by the commitment we show to you,” he will say. “So I have a clear message: I value you. I admire you. I will fight for you and I will champion you.”
The shadow health and social care secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “The 4.3 million patients on waiting lists and the nearly 27,000 patients who waited over 62 days for cancer treatment last year will feel sorely let down that reducing waiting lists and stamping out rationing isn’t the first priority of the new health secretary.
“Investment in technology is welcome but years of Tory austerity has seen hospitals build up a £5bn repair backlog, resulting in clinicians nationwide using hundreds of pieces of equipment that are years out of date, as recently revealed by Labour. And commitments to prevention will ring hollow without reversing the substantial cuts to public health budgets, which are set to reach £800m by 2020-21.”