Health Secretary unveils £4.2billion NHS digital plan

Digital Transformation in the National Health Service gets a boost from Jeremy Hunt with a bumper package of online proposals including a huge investment in cyber security

by the commentator on 8 February 2016 12:43


Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has announced plans for a £4.2billion investment in the UK National Health Service (NHS). The policy proposals include a £1billion allocation of funding for cyber security along with further proposals for health care apps, a new website and wi-fi in all NHS buildings.

The proposals were welcomed by industry experts in the technology sector who have long seen investment in digital transformation as key to delivering a more cost-effective and efficient health service.

Responding to the announcement, Phil Sorsky VP of Wireless Europe at CommScope said: “The NHS can only become a truly digital organisation if health professionals and patients can connect instantly to access data and book services online. That’s why it’s vital that all NHS buildings are properly equipped with technology to ensure consistency of connectivity whether that’s in the waiting room or the accident and emergency department.

“While we of course welcome this investment in wi-fi, it is always critical that doctors and healthcare staff have access to cellular coverage in hospitals, so that – where it’s safe to do so – they can connect with staff and resolve issues in real-time and without delay. Without universal connectivity across all NHS buildings, the benefits of new applications and digitised records cannot be fully realised.”

The extra funding for cyber security procedures was also welcomed by industry experts. Gordon Morrison, Director of Government Relations at Intel Security said: “This investment sends a clear signal that the government is serious about transforming the NHS and making it fit for the digital age.  However, the journey towards digitised records and services brings with it challenges around cyber security, privacy and protection of patient data.

“That’s why it’s vital that the digital NHS plan is underpinned with a dedicated cyber strategy that can enable secure transformation that protects data from outsider threats. This approach will mean doctors, nurses and patients can enjoy world class digital health services and operate with genuine confidence in the increasingly connected online world.”

But a note of caution was added around potential security vulnerabilities in online applications for patients. John Smith, principal solution architect at Veracode said: "These proposals for a more connected, app-enabled NHS will certainly offer patients and health professionals more efficient digital services which are long overdue.

“But whilst patients will benefit from mobile access to records, data and online bookings, the sharp rise  in healthcare apps could cause headaches for the government. That’s why it’s vital that all applications which access confidential data are fully tested and protected from vulnerabilities which could be an easy target for cyber criminals wishing to damage the NHS or profit from the wealth of sensitive data it holds.

Veracode’s research has shown that the healthcare industry has a poor track record in terms of creating secure code – with 69% of apps tested failing to meet basic security standards, and only 43% of identified flaws being fixed. Healthcare apps were also found to have a particularly high prevalence of Cryptographic Flaws which is rather worrying given that Encryption is one of the key technologies needed to protect sensitive data,” Smith concluded. 

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