On February 28th, 2024, the digital health community came together for the second installment of HETT North. Building on the success of its inaugural launch in 2023, this event brought together professionals eager to explore the latest advancements in healthcare technology. 

A pivotal session from the new Digital Primary Care and Digital Social Care streams, was the keynote fireside session featuring Mark Nicholas, Clinical Director and Chief Social Worker, NHS England and Minal Bakhai, Director of Primary Care Transformation, NHS England. The session was chaired by Sam Shah, and explored themes of collaboration, partnership, and co-production within healthcare systems, while also exploring catalysts for accelerating transformation. Explore the key takeaways or listen to the session in full below.

A look at the greatest gains in transformation in primary and social care 

Minal addressed the escalating demand for primary care, largely fueled by an aging population and diminished capacity. With a 15% surge in clinical consultations within general practices and a reduction of 2000 GPs since 2015, we're approaching saturation points, particularly in deprived areas. Therefore, it is crucial to adopt new ways of working and monitor capacity. 

That’s where primary care transformation work is becoming pivotal. The first step is modern general practice which is the initial step on a journey towards a more integrated primary care landscape. This entails reevaluating operational frameworks to facilitate broader access, understand the need at the point of contact, enhance care navigation underpinned by population health management approach based on data and evidence, and improve the efficiency of our processes through digital technology such as messaging. 

For example, NHS England looked at 10.5 million patient contacts within practices and found 30% can be managed through messaging and digital appointment bookings. This has not only achieved significant time savings but also frees up resources to be redirected towards enhancing care delivery. 

Mark then went on to discuss key transformation projects in social care. There's a unique opportunity in the realm of social care transformation as just three decades ago, digital innovation in this field was virtually nonexistent. However, over the past seven years, significant progress has been made, leveraging valuable lessons from challenges encountered in healthcare. 

However, this progress also brings its share of challenges. Starting from scratch means ensuring that the foundational infrastructure is robust and comprehensive. In recent years, there's been a notable increase in digital investments. For instance, there's been a surge in funding towards digital social care records. Previously, less than 40% of the 26,000 social care providers had adopted digital social care records. Now, that figure stands at 60%, with a goal to reach 80% by the coming year. 

Minal Bakhai, Director of Primary Care Transformation speaking at HETT North

How do we reach an integrated model of care? 

Minal outlined the ongoing trial within the NHS known as Improvement Week. This initiative entails gathering all system partners, including social care, mental health, ambulance services, and patients, among others, at a practice. Throughout the week, the practice meticulously examines every workload it has encountered. Each partner then deliberates whether another partner within the system could have handled the workload more effectively, thereby enhancing workload distribution and efficiency. This allows everyone to build an understanding of the demand and the need, whilst building relationships amongst system partners. With each workload discussed, it will lead to one of four potential outcomes:  

  • Immediate improvement can be implemented within the practice's own processes. 
  • Improvement within the practice is feasible but requires some time for implementation. 
  • Immediate improvement can be made within the system. 
  • Commitment to improvement within the system is acknowledged, although implementation will take time. 

Despite resource being a current problem, undertaking this work identifies where we can be more efficient as a system, bringing everyone together around the shared goal of improving the journey of patients.  

Key programmes solving the social care needs 

Mark elaborated on the significance of achieving the digital social care target for the social care sector. This achievement would facilitate the seamless flow of data sets from local authorities to NHS England. Once established, this infrastructure enables thorough analysis of journeys across the system to ensure the provision of optimal services. 

The crucial aspect of integration is mainly occurring locally with support from the central authorities. Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) serve as a platform for collaboration and investment. However, from a centralised standpoint, it remains challenging to assess individual concerns. Therefore, it is key to listen to the needs of the local communities and collectively address these concerns. 

The future model of health and primary care integration  

When asked about the optimal model of integrating primary and social care, Minal highlighted the importance of investing in care delivered closer to individuals' homes, enabling consistent, high-quality continuity of care. She stressed the necessity for inclusive access to services and the ability to segment the population through a population health management framework. 

Additionally, Minal emphasised the significance of offering flexible care tailored to individual needs, thereby enabling a more personalised approach. This flexibility extends to managing scheduled demand, enhancing winter resilience, and minimising unplanned admissions. Consequently, this approach allows clinicians to focus on proactive interventions that drive positive outcomes and build relationships to reduce health inequalities. 

Mark envisions advancements in the establishment of genuinely shared healthcare records spanning across various systems. Currently lots of work is being done to facilitate this, however, challenges persist regarding the classification of registered professionals and their access to comprehensive information. The goal is to enable the sharing of information for direct care purposes and leverage the data derived from such exchanges to enhance patient care. 

Find out more about digital primary and social care at HETT Show 

Be part of the next discussion around digital primary and social care at this year’s HETT Show on 24th & 25th September at ExCeL London. This year’s event is set to be bigger than ever before, with new features, zones and networking opportunities.  

Register your interest for HETT Show today to be notified as soon as registration opens.  




Join the Community
Get the latest healthtech and digital health news, reports, webinars and offers direct to your inbox.