UCL News


Government progress on digitising the NHS rated ‘inadequate’ by panel led by UCL academic

17 February 2023

An expert panel, Chaired by Emeritus Professor Dame Jane Dacre, has concluded the UK Government’s overall progress on its “vital” commitments to digitise the NHS is “inadequate”.

Professor Dame Jane Dacre

Set up by the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, the independent panel evaluated commitments including the delivery of integrated health and care records, the roll-out of the NHS app and ensuring a workforce had the necessary digital skills.

The Expert Panel, set up in August 2020, gives Care Quality Commission-style ratings on the government’s performance in meeting policy commitments, grading them from “inadequate” to “outstanding”.

The independent and objective evaluation is designed to enhance the select committee’s core task of holding the government and ministers to account.

For this latest evaluation, six NHS IT specialists were appointed to join the core panel of experts, bringing their experience of evaluation together with subject-specific expertise and experience.

The Expert Panel focused on nine commitments the government had made across four policy areas, including: the care of patients and people in receipt of social care, the health of the population, cost and efficiency of care, and workforce literacy and the digital workforce.

Published today, the Panel’s report, ‘Evaluation of Government commitments made on the digitisation of the NHS’, recognised that the commitments made were appropriate and that  some progress had been made.

However, they concluded that some key commitments had not been met or were not on track to be met. Consequently, they rated the progress of all commitments to be inadequate.

Key findings:

  • Experts found there to be poor progress towards national interoperability, which prevents digital systems transferring information and connecting with each other.
  • Experts found some providers had poor digital capabilities, particularly although not exclusively, within social care.
  • Planning was found to be insufficient, particularly around the accessibility of digital products, to mitigate against exclusion of some groups of the population.
  • Recent work to enable electronic records amongst social care providers is still a work in progress – despite being a requirement since 2004.
  • There is a shortage of staff, both in numbers but mainly with the relevant technical skills, to deliver digital services and to benefit patients and people in receipt of social care.

Dame Jane, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee’s Expert Panel, and Emeritus Professor of Medical Education at UCL Medical School, said: “What is particularly disappointing is that the Government recognises that the digitisation of the NHS is essential to bring about real benefits to patients, for example by helping them to monitor and manage long-term health conditions independently.

“Yet time and again, promises have been made but not delivered, hampering wider progress. For example, using data sharing to improve research and planning, which we’ve rated as inadequate. However, worryingly, we have seen no clear plan for how the Government will address public and provider concerns regarding sharing personal data, which is crucial to address in order for this to be successful.

“We heard about issues with interoperability between systems and providers, making it difficult for all parts of the system to communicate effectively, leading to delays and efficiency losses.

“Evidence also highlights challenges in recruiting, retaining and building the specialised digital workforce, yet Ministers have delayed a strategy focused on delivering a digital workforce.

“The aspirations to transform the NHS, supported by the right digital foundations, are to be applauded, however, our report finds evidence mainly of opportunities missed.”

Steve Brine MP, Chair of the Health and Social Committee, said:  

“These important findings by our panel of experts will support of the work of the Health and Social Care Committee which is currently examining digital transformation in the NHS.

“Integration of the NHS with social care services is vital so it is concerning that these care settings appear to be frequently overlooked.     

“The Panel’s detailed work provides evidence of the Government’s overall ‘inadequate’ approach to its commitments to digitise the NHS and will feed into the Committee’s work, shaping the recommendations we make to Ministers.”



Media contact 

Poppy Danby 

E: p.danby [at] ucl.ac.uk