Further, faster: taking the brakes off digitising the NHS.

Further, faster: taking the brakes off digitising the NHS

Technology can help patients and their families get the most out of the NHS.

Digital innovation will empower them to engage with services efficiently, manage their records and their care and assist health professionals to share their information with key health and social care professionals in a secure and confidential manner.

Just as innovators have driven improvements in life-saving technologies, such as scans and new drugs, the digitisation of the health service will drive better outcomes for better informed patients.

But we need to move faster… The digitising of the NHS is happening, slowly, across England. However, health tech entrepreneurs report finding it difficult to get their solutions into the NHS, so much so that we risk losing the brightest and best companies to the US, where they are finding they can do business.

There is no shortage of interesting and potentially game-changing innovations worth exploring, particularly from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), both home-grown and from elsewhere. There are good intentions on both sides, yet SMEs and the NHS find it challenging to work together in productive and sustainable ways.

We wanted to find out more about how Further Faster is offering a valuable resource to companies, and ZPB’s COO – Alex Kafetz kindly gave us the opportunity to ask some questions.

I’ve spent the last few years being passionate about the role that digital and technology can play in helping meet the big challenges facing our own personal health and the health and care system. I’m a strong believer that transparency – making data available about health and care – and participation – technology enabling us to plan and manage our own health – will be the key to making the NHS sustainable within the current financial envelope.

The idea for Further, Faster originated about eleven months ago when I attended a run-of-the-mill health digital conference and two things happened:

Firstly, at a session from one of central NHS senior leaders talking about ‘harnessing the digital revolution’, I asked how they were planning to involve SMEs, and received a very vague answer about ‘getting everyone in the room, and all ideas are welcome’. This is not what I wanted to hear, which was that:

  • SMEs are key to the solution
  • There is no need for the centre to re-invent innovations happening in the market and;
  • They are ready to procure ‘best in class’, whomever the supplier

Secondly, at the plenary wrap-up, a guy from a SME berated the panel, saying that he felt it was all too difficult, the conference hadn’t helped at all, and he had no faith that the NHS would ever work with companies like his own, and he was giving up. Panel members tried to convince him not to, but couldn’t really give much help.

It occurred to me on the way home, that we were in a position to help that SME business owner and many of his colleagues.

By we, I firstly mean my company ZPB. Those of you who have worked with us know how passionate we are about health tech SMEs, the work we do to promote them and help them become successful, and championing a mixed economy as the best way to keep the NHS free at the point of need.

And by ‘we’ I also mean the health tech SMEs and NHS local leaders who have successfully created partnerships. So we, under the guidance of an expert panel, have captured what works, and what doesn’t.

Originally this project was going to just be a collection of papers but it’s morphed into a much larger resource:

  • We’ve published three insight papers giving advice to the NHS, to SMEs and tried to articulate what support we would like and not like, from central NHS bodies
  • We’ve also told the stories of some of our panel members, who have been able to overcome the hurdles and form successful partnerships through blogs and case studies

But the important thing to say is that this is the start of the process, not the end. We want Further, Faster to become the best and most extensive online library of advice and tips for the NHS and SMEs. It would be great if Salus readers got in touch with their blogs, cases studies and ideas for new content.

Our next step is to take this internationally, we absolutely want to champion and make home grown companies successful but are also keen to foster relationships between the NHS and the best tech organisations abroad.  To this end, we are convening our first study tour in September to immerse international companies into the NHS.  Again we’d welcome further conversations about this.

Better partnerships will lead to better patient outcomes, efficient working and economic growth – what’s not to like?

Alex Kafetz is the Chief Operating Officer at ZPB and an independent member of the National Information Board which sets the strategy across England for data, technology and transparency


Alex Kafetz


Alex Kafetz is the Chief Operating Officer at ZPB and an independent member of the National Information Board which sets the strategy across England for data, technology and transparency

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