How can we facilitate the digital transformation of the NHS?


The Sowerby eHealth Forum host their fourth and final Symposium.

The hot topic at this year’s Symposium, which took place at BMA House in London last week, was how best to digitally transform NHS systems and processes in order to improve patient care as well as create a better informed, smoother running health system for all.    

The event, which was watched remotely by over 1000 online viewers, brought together a diverse range of speakers, including researchers, doctors, patients and government advisers who discussed and debated how we can improve the evaluation of digital solutions and how the benefits of data initiatives can best be communicated to the public. 

The Symposium was hosted by our Centre for Health Policy’s Sowerby e-Health Forum, a research and development programme, funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation, exploring how the use of electronic health records can transform the way the NHS delivers safe and effective patient-centred care.  The Forum’s work looks at the potential for primary and secondary care data integration to improve service delivery, healthcare research and population health in this country. 

Digital Academy

Rachel Dunscombe

NHS Digital Academy CEO Rachel Dunscombe.

The first keynote was presented by Rachel Dunscombe, CEO of the NHS Digital Academy.  The new Academy, which opens for admissions in November, is led by Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) in partnership with Harvard Medical School and the University of Edinburgh.  Its aim is to train a cadre of individuals who will become the future digital leaders of the NHS, providing them with the leadership skills, health system and technical knowledge, and the professional network they need to bring about transformational change in their organisations, and across the health system as a whole. 

The second keynote was presented by the new CEO of NHS Digital, Sarah Wilkinson, who discussed the current state of play in the NHS and the way forward for its digital transformation.

We also heard from the Sowerby e-Health Forum’s Erik Mayer who updated us on some of last year’s research highlights from the forum.

Panel discussions

The Symposium was moderated by Sir Nick Partridge, Former Deputy Chair of NHS Digital.  Sir Nick led three panel discussions during the event, one which discussed ‘How do we develop leaders for the NHS digital transformation?’, which included panelists Rachel Dunscombe, Professor Keith McNeil - Chief Clinical Information Officer within the Department of Health, Aziz Sheikh - Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at the University of Edinburgh and Will Smart - NHS Chief Information Officer for Health and Social Care.

The second panel discussion debated ‘How can we evaluate digital solutions?’ and heard from panel members including the Centre for Health Policy’s Economist Alexander Carter, Professor Trisha Greenhalgh - Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Research in Health Sciences Unit at the University of Oxford, Dr David Stables - Co-founder, EMIS Health and Dr Niamh Lennox-Chhugani from the NHS and Local Government Lead of Optimity Advisors Europe. 

The third and final panel session asked ‘How can we communicate data sharing to the public?’ and heard from panelists Simon Burall - Senior Associate at Involve, John Marsh - Patient Representative, Erik Mayer and Nicola Perrin - Head, Understanding Patient Data, Wellcome.

Lord Darzi

IGHI Director Professor Ara Darzi

In his closing remarks, IGHI Director, Professor Darzi said “I would like to take this opportunity to give a huge thanks to all our speakers and attendees.  In order to transform the NHS for the better, we need to highlight the importance in empowering its leaders to contribute towards some of the big challenges facing the NHS today.  There is huge potential in healthcare in the areas of digital, artificial intelligence and machine learning and we are very much looking forward to continue to work and collaborate in this area in order to make an impact and improve healthcare for all”. 

Further reading 


Jo Seed

Jo Seed
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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