A year has passed since the Scottish Government published its Digital Health and Care Strategy. The strategy highlighted the challenges with existing technology that make it difficult for clinicians and care staff to have all the information they need to offer the highest quality of care; information is both siloed by care setting and by organisation. 

The strategy was clear in its commitment to do things differently so that we can make real-time data and information available to clinicians, social care staff and citizens, when they need it, wherever they are, and in an appropriate and secure way. That means that the technology has to operate as it if is a single system.

When the system works like that, we will improve quality, access and the experience of both staff and citizens.  It will support the work on key commitments such as elective centres, where citizens will get the highest quality of care, as well as simply make things like renewing a prescription or booking an appointment easier.

Following the publication of the Strategy, a team – NES Digital Service (NDS) – was created in NHS Education Scotland in June of last year to take forward the work to create a National Digital Platform.   Since then, we have been working to recruit the team, develop our approach and begin to build both the core architecture and the first products.

We are taking an iterative approach to the work and have moved quickly to develop and test our early products at a small scale before we widen out both their availability and scope.  That approach allows us to work directly with those people who will use and rely on the product to ensure that what we build works, and where it does not meet expectations, quickly adapt it before making it generally available.

Our first product will be a digital version of the ‘ReSPECT’ process, which helps people communicate how they wish to be treated if they are unable to communicate in an emergency. This product will go into testing in parts of Scotland this Summer.   It is built on the core architecture of the platform, which has also been under development, and that core architecture will be used for all of our work.

At this stage we are working to test our presumptions, establish the team to take forward the work and build relationships with the people who work in the system and the people who use it.  We think that the work that we do and the degree to which it benefits people will be the best way to judge the NDS.

Geoff Huggins is Director of NES Digital Service. Read about the National Digital Platform in FutureScot Magazine in The Times Scotland: Download the PDF.