Is A Digitally Enabled NHS The Key To Change?

A lady in scrubs performing an operation whilst thinking about how a digitally enabled NHS would benefit her

With the NHS continuously facing challenges around staff shortages, could a digitally enabled NHS be the answer? BT’s ‘Mind the Gap! Delivering Digitally Enabled Change to the NHS‘ report highlights opinions around digital healthcare from the NHS workforce.

Featuring views from 197 members of staff from 136 different NHS and Integrated Care System (ICS) organisations within the NHS, it emphasises a strong collective attitude towards adopting new technologies to attract a younger workforce and deliver better quality care, but also the serious barriers to digitisation the NHS is facing. 


Only 20% of NHS organisations are deemed to be “digitally mature”. The NHS has stated clear objectives around health and social care services having digital foundations in place, including electronic records, by March 2025. This will enable NHS staff and the public to safely access information when they need it and at a time and place that is convenient to them.

The NHS has made clear its ambition to have “a connected health and care system… information can flow safely and seamlessly between IT systems, care providers and settings.” However, with legacy systems no longer fit for purpose, infrastructure issues and stressed staff members increasingly suffering from burnout, there is a long way to go.

Staff want a digitally enabled NHS

BT’s report clearly shows that the vast majority of respondents (74%) believe that technology can help deliver improved patient care.

Furthermore, NHS staff agree that technology has an important part to play in mitigating one of the biggest issues facing the NHS – staff shortages. 74% think that the NHS should invest more in new technological solutions and software in order to attract new staff. Additionally, 83% say that doing so would help the NHS to attract a younger worforce from “digitally nurtured generations”.

The chink in the NHS armour

Like any other workforce, NHS staff just want technology that works and supports them. In fact, 98% of respondents agree that network, Wi-Fi infrastructure, and mobile technology are crucial to the NHS. Yet, 58% either strongly agree or agree that their building/site suffers from connectivity non-spots.

Given the public nature and age of the NHS, the organisations that make it up are full of legacy systems, which conflict with new software that could lead to a digitally enabled NHS. Almost 60% of respondents for BT’s report cite difficulties implementing new technology with existing systems. Largely, this is not directly related to the new tech itself, but rather from stress as a result of connectivity, accessibility, and interoperability issues.

Sadly, 51% of respondents report regularly switching between devices, systems or networks to carry out tasks and, even more worryingly, 24% either agree or strongly agree that they have tried to implement new innovation and processes but reverted to old ways due to connectivity issues. 57% of respondents agree that data is isolated and non-compatible, therefore, the interchange of information within different systems is often restricted.

An aversion to change

74% believe that technology and digital tools suport them to deliver better quality care. However, like many other public sector organisations, the NHS struggles with change. Significantly, 37% of respondents think that cultural resistance to change is a barrier to digital transformation.

Alas, with 49% reporting the standard of technology that they work with being a source of stress, it’s not overly surprising that some have an aversion to a digitally enabled NHS. Aside from ‘funding and cost’, staffing levels, burnout and shortages is one of biggest barriers that could prevent the NHS from becoming more digitally enabled in the coming years.

The NHS must evolve

Funding is seen as the primary barrier to the NHS transforming, however, it’s closely followed by three quarters of respondents who believe their team’s ability to deliver, whether due to a lack of skills or available resources, could limit transformation into a digitally enabled NHS.

The deployment and adoption of technology within the NHS, clearly must be improved in order to support the NHS workforce to do their roles effectively. 55% of respondents say they want a  clear road map to support delivery. Whilst around half of respondents say they want further evidence of the impact of new technology, and a similar amount say they would like to see their opinions taken on board and used to optimise technolgical solutions, where necessary, through regular feedback sessions.

Careful and calculated innovation

The number one priority for NHS staff is their patients, and the ability to deliver improved healthcare. All technological solutions and moves to become a digitally enabled NHS must be to that end. Additionally, solutions must be introduced in a way that takes the individual requirements of each individual organisation under the NHS umbrella into consideration, whilst paying close attention to patient safety, governance and compliance.

Extensive stakeholder engagement and feedback sessions into end-user experiences will improve the development, deployment and adoption of exciting technological solutions. 79% of respondents agree that patient-public involvement (PPI) is key, in order to not just improve solutions, but to ensure a digitally enabled NHS will not widen digital inequalities and cause further problems around digital exclusion.


As Sultan Mahmud, Director of BT Healthcare said, ““It’s clear from this research that NHS staff have a real belief in technology and its potential for delivering greater healthcare for everyone. However, it’s also clear that we need to work together to evolve the approach to adoption and infrastructure. This is about making sure technology is a driver: easing staff stresses, supporting recruitment, unlocking digital transformation, and delivering better patient outcomes.”


VIQU is an IT recruitment agency with a rich history of supporting NHS Trusts with their IT hiring needs. If you would like to find out more about the bespoke solutions we can offer public sector organisations, please get in touch.


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