techUK calls for £1 billion per year on NHS digital

IT industry association manifesto also includes recommendation to triple funding for cyber security in government and for each department to have a minister for technology

The Government should be ready to pump £1 billion per year into the NHS to support digital innovation in health and social care, according to IT industry association techUK.

The organisation has made the call in its new manifesto, Inventing the Future, as part of a range of recommendations for how the UK should plan for its digital economy after it leaves the EU.

The document includes a series of proposals under the banner of Building the Smarter State, renewing the emphasis on making public services digital by default.

It says that one of the most urgent issues is to meet the demand on health and social care services under restrained budgets, and that this requires breaking down the barriers to digital innovation in the sector.

This prompts the recommendation for the extra £1 billion per year, involving an increase in NHS England’s sustainability and transformation budget from 2% to 3% of its total spend, bringing it closer to private sector levels.

Data demand

techUK also says the NHS is nowhere near making full use of its data, and urges the Government to carry out a full review of health service data practices with the goal of an open data plan to support innovation and investment in medical technology. The plan could include requirements that new technological interventions would be provided at a reduced cost to the NHS as the data supplier before being exported overseas.

The document includes a timely emphasis on cyber security – in the context of last week’s widespread ransomware attack – with a call for a 10% increase in the budget for the National Cyber Security Strategy for public sector ICT. This would equate to almost £200 million in extra funds.

It would be accompanied by a commitment from the new Government to protecting encryption – resisting recent calls from some quarters to leave backdoors open – and to work with industry on beefing up the Cyber Essentials Scheme. In turn, any procurement should make certification under the scheme a necessity.

Julian DavidJulian David (pictured), chief executive officer of techUK, said: “Digital security is fundamental, but our defences are only as strong as our weakest link. That’s why techUK’s cyber proposals would triple the funding for protecting government ICT and securing online services based on the previous budget. 

“The manifesto also argues that strong encryption is also vital for defending the UK and its citizens from attacks by hackers and hostile states.”

Ministerial roles

Another recommendation is for each Government department to have a minister for technology, and holding the rank of minister of state in key departments such as the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. They would be responsible for driving consistent implementation of digital strategy and aligning it with the Government Transformation Strategy.

This is accompanied by a proposal for the Ministerial Digital Taskforce to be retained as a Cabinet sub-committee, but with an increased membership to include all the ministers with digital responsibilities.

Other recommendations in the Smarter State section include:

  • Creating a formal target for the majority of transactions carried out by government to be digitised by 2020.
  • Refreshing the beleaguered project to build the Verify identity assurance platform with a strategy for its roll out across government. This should include how it will interact with the Government Gateway.
  • Central government supporting local government in understanding digital best practice.
  • Introducing a ‘Digital Devolution Dividend’, a £350 million fund to match any metro mayor’s investment in a chief digital officer and strategy.
  • Ensuring that civil servants working in technical areas should do so for at least three years to develop a deep knowledge.
  • Provide digital skills training to new entrants to the Civil Service Fast Stream.
  • Installing a digital adviser as part of the Defence Innovation Initiative.

On the wider areas of supporting the UK economy post-Brexit, techUK advocates that technology should be treated as a priority in negotiations with the EU, and that the Government appoint a new digital ambassador to promote the sector worldwide.

It also calls for a ring fenced £250 million per year from the Immigration Skills Charge to fund the development of digital skills, and increase the adult education budget in real terms each year to support lifelong learning and training.