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Building a digital ready workforce

Using data, information, knowledge and technology to transform the way we offer health and care services.

The health and care system is under increasing pressure - we are living longer with health problems that are getting more and more expensive to treat as the investigations and treatments get more advanced. To address this issue we need to innovate and embrace new technologies. 

Without innovation, public services costs tend to rise faster than the rest of the economy. Without innovation, the inevitable pressure to contain costs can only be met by forcing already stretched staff to work harder.

 – Mulgan G & Albury D. (2003), Innovation in the public sector, Strategy Unity, 2008

Through Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP) we can transform the way we offer our health and care services in a way that makes them sustainable and brings them into line with our budget.  Intelligent use of data, information, knowledge and technology, which we bring together under the title 'digital', is central to achieving this required change.

Led by HEE, Building a Digital Ready Workforce is a programme of work that aims to bring people together in a culture that recognises the need to innovate and the role of digital in that innovation. Our mission is to help everyone in the health and care sector in England, become comfortable enough with digital tools that they can contribute to that transformation and deliver the outcomes of their role quicker, easier, safer and at a higher level of quality.

By-and-large the skills, products and services that we need already exist. This means that our programme isn’t about building a new learning solution, it’s about helping to find where people have solved part of this problem and stitch them together into a cohesive offering for our whole industry. Every single organisation in health and social care has a duty for the learning and development of its own staff and we believe that digital skill and knowledge should be a core component of this.


All of this is done in the spirit of partnership. Our network of partners includes professional bodies, academic bodies, charities, other government departments, industry, health and care providers, commissioners and arm’s length bodies. We all have our part to play. The programme will help to make sure we learn from one another and don’t waste effort through conflict or unnecessary duplication.

Informatics Workforce Report

The Informatics Workforce Report provides detail on the size of the informatics workforce currently working in NHS organisations across England and estimates how it is expected to increase by 2024.

The report looks at the composition of the workforce examining its makeup along the lines of gender, age, ethnicity and disability status as well as variation across the country.

The work undertaken for this report is intended to be the first phase of a project in understanding, modelling and planning the informatics workforce. The second phase which is planned for 2020 will focus on modelling and planning the informatics workforce in the health and social care sectors.


The programme will be delivered through four workstreams detailed below:

Our executive directors and owners in health and social care set the culture that operates in their organisations. This workstream will help these people devise and share best practice against the backdrop of the need for radical transformation. In this way our leaders will set the right culture that empowers all staff to be part of the solution and develop the capabilities to confidently understand how ‘digital’ can support innovation and transformation and service delivery.

There are between perhaps 25,000 and 50,000 informaticians in the NHS. These people, who we define in job roles as varied as futurologist, data analyst and librarian, are key to helping the health and care industry to evolve and adapt to changing staff, clinician, patient and public expectations and to take advantage of a digital toolset exponentially growing in power.

Of those 25-50,000, we know there are a number who would not self-identify as an ‘Informatician’ and still many others too busy or unconvinced of the value of engaging with an online consultation process.

We simply have no idea how many people would class themselves as informaticians in Social Care.

The Building A Digital Ready Workforce programme commissioned an online consultation to reach this audience and 1,061 individuals participated. The results demonstrated remarkable consensus to implement a small number of broad interventions aimed at everyone rather than a large number of focussed interventions aimed at specific audiences with specific needs. The full details of the consultation approach, recommendations and next steps can be found here

The NHS Digital Academy is the NHS’s first ever nationally funded programme of world-class health informatics training. It will provide specialist IT training and development support to 300 senior clinicians and health managers over a 12 month period. The aim is to help shape a new generation of Chief Information Officers (CIO) and Chief Clinical Information Officers (CCIO) who can help drive through the digital transformation the NHS requires.

We will work with professional groups, such as nurses, to identify pain points and work to help them define what they need to become digitally expert to the level they need. Their needs will inform our work with leaders and our digital nativesto make sure barriers are removed and the right products and services are provided in the right way.