Is It Possible for the NHS to Become Fully Digital?

  • Julian C. Tomlins


This chapter will offer an illustrative case study of how digital technology is now being more widely used to make the National Health Service (NHS) of the UK more efficient and more cost effective, leading to better quality of patient care and services. Increasing the use of digital technology is an integral part of the Five-Year Forward View, which is the NHS’ five-year improvement plan to 2020, led by its Chief Executive, Simon Stevens. Specifically, this chapter will focus on the Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA), a national tool to benchmark 250 NHS acute, mental health, and community providers across England with the aim of achieving a fully paper-free health service by 2020. The DMA is a voluntary self-assessment and includes questions on: (1) Readiness (strategic alignment; leadership; resourcing; governance and information governance); (2) Capability (records, assessments, and plans; transfers of care; orders and results management; medicines management and optimization; decision support; remote and assistive care; asset and resource optimization and standards); and (3) Enabling Infrastructure. The tool is intended to highlight where investment in technology has enabled patient outcomes to improve as well as demonstrate improved capabilities and value for money spent over time. This chapter will also review a number of key NHS policy decisions and discuss whether these are sufficient to enable the NHS to fully embrace digital technology and create a safe and sustainable health service with patients’ themselves as its champions.


Information Revolution Digital Maturity Assessment Local Digital Roadmaps Global Digital Exemplars Sustainability and Transformation Plans Five-Year Forward View Wachter Review King’s Fund MyNHS National Information Board NHS apps NHS Choices NHS Digital NHS Digital Academy NHS England 


  1. Academy of Medical Royal Colleges for the National Information Board (NIB). (2017). Information and digital technologies clinical requirements 2020. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from
  2. Cancer Research UK. (2015). Taskforce report: Achieving world-class cancer outcomes. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from
  3. Department of Health. (2012). NHS constitution for England. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from
  4. Department of Health. (2015). Review of operational productivity in NHS providers (interim report).Google Scholar
  5. (2017). Cost of diabetes. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from
  6. Glover-Thomas, N. (2013). The Health and Social Care Act 2012: The emergency of equal treatment for mental health care or another false dawn? Medical Law International, 13(4), 279–297. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Gov.UK. (2012a). NHS constitution for England. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from
  8. Gov.UK. (2012b). Health and Social Care Act 2012: Fact sheets.
  9. Gov.UK. (2016). Using information technology to improve the NHS. An Independent Report by National Advisory Group on Health Information Technology in England, chaired by clinician and digital expert Professor Robert Wachter. Retrieved May 20, 2017, from
  10. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. (2016). Operational plan 2017–2018. Retrieved March 24, 2017, from
  11. Ham, C. (2017). What do the manifestos mean for the NHS? Retrieved May 28, 2017, from
  12. Ham, C., Baird, B., Gregory, S., Jabbal, J., & Alderwick, H. (2015). The NHS under the coalition government: Part one: NHS reform. Retrieved April 30, 2017, from
  13. Honeyman, M., Dunn, P., & McKenna, H. (2016). A digital NHS? An introduction to the digital agenda and plans for implementation.
  14. Johnson, S. (2016). The cost of mental illness. The Guardian Healthcare Network. Retrieved May 3, 2017, from
  15. McKenna, H. (2017). What impact will Brexit have on the health and social care workforce? Retrieved May 29, 2017, from
  16. Mental Health Taskforce to the NHS in England. (2016). The five year forward view for mental health.
  17. National Information Board (NIB). (2014). Personalised health and care 2020: Using data and technology to transform outcomes for patients and citizens.
  18. NHS Choices beta site. (2017). Find digital tools to help you manage and improve your health. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from
  19. NHS Confederation. (2016). Key statistics on the NHS. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from
  20. NHS England. (2016). Digital maturity self-assessment: Data model/structure. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from
  21. NHS England. (2017a). Next steps on the NHS five year forward view. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from
  22. NHS England. (2017b). Harnessing technology and innovation. Retrieved May 5, 2017, from
  23. NHS England. (2015). Sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs). Retrieved 27 May, 2017, from
  24. The King’s Fund. (2016). A digital NHS? An introduction to the digital agenda and the plans for implementation.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julian C. Tomlins
    • 1
  1. 1.Roche Products UK LtdLondonUK

Personalised recommendations