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Health secretary Matt Hancock assembles brains trust: OK, guys. Let's cure NHS IT

Expert panel hopes to make dreams of improvement reality

Health secretary Matt Hancock's tech brains trust met for the first time today as the UK government revealed the people it hopes will come up with workable ideas to fix the NHS's creaking IT systems.

The so-called Healthtech Advisory Board's goal is to help Hancock and the various public servants tasked with overhauling the technology used by the health service on its shoestring budget.

It is chaired by clinician and author Ben Goldacre, who was profuse in his praise for Hancock's tech vision for the health service when it launched last month.

In that, Hancock and his department set out aims including increasing interoperability, ensuring services and systems meet open standards, improving data flows around the health service, and cracking down on vendor lock-in.

Goldacre praised the fact the document explained why these moves are necessary in both technical and economic terms.

"We will only get rapid innovation for new tech tools in the NHS when vendors realise they are part of a rich, competitive ecosystem, where competitors can step in and replace modules with newer, better options," he said.

"And we will only get good services for patients and clinicians when data can flow without friction – and securely – between systems."

There have been a range of attempts to bring healthcare systems into the 21st Century since, with mixed success and billions of pounds of taxpayer cash squandered.

The government, in a bid to prove it understands that implementation will be crucial, has set up a panel of techies to develop ideas for the NHS – which critics will hope are practical solutions that cut through political posturing.

Goldacre's canned statement today said: "I hope we can bring positive change for staff and patients, and realise the Tech Vision with a cutting-edge 21st century NHS. Medicine is driven by information: better use of data can revolutionise health care."

Members cover healthcare groups, government agency bods – like Nicola Blackwood, chair of the Human Tissue Authority, and Roger Taylor, chair of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation – venture capitalists and private biz.

They include Daniel Korski, who recently founded public sector VC firm Public, Michelle Brennan, the company group chair for Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, and Dan Sheldon, who is head of digital at Well Pharmacy.

After all, with no separate budget to carry out the overhaul that has been laid out, Hancock may need all the help he can get, from wherever he can get it. ®

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