The end of September/beginning of October was officially party time for me – party conferences that is!
Okay, so it may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but I very much enjoyed myself and left very impressed with both Labour and Conservative thinking on all matters digital.
Much of my time in both Brighton and Manchester was spent, unsurprisingly, at fringe sessions which talked about digital strategies and priorities. It was great to hear so many people discussing digital inclusion, and recognising the lack of basic digital skills as an issue which affects multiple policy areas. That’s a massive step forwards from just a few years ago, when my party conference experience was spent fighting digital inclusion’s corner!
Welfare reform was obviously a huge area of discussion that affects many of our hyperlocal partners and their users. And, due to our recent NHS contract, I also found myself listening to many conversations about the potential of technology to help NHS staff and patients.
I was particularly impressed with Stella Creasy MP (@stellacreasy) at the Brighton conference. She spoke eloquently about the use of digital for preventative care in the health service. She argued that we need more imagination about the potential for technology to drive better services, and used an example from her own constituency.
In one hospital in Creasy’s constituency there are 56 people in hospital – not because they’re ill – but because their care at home isn’t sorted out. Each person in hospital, costs the NHS £264 per day, so for these 56 people that’s costing the NHS £15,000. It’s not about the money though, it’s about the person and making sure they get the care they need and in a place that most convenient for them; technology can help us to put people first. Creasy said she wanted to see more done to reconfigure public services with the individual at the centre, driving up the quality of information and support, underpinned by digital – saving time and money as a by-product. “How can everyone be part of our future, and then how can technology help us?” said Creasey.
I attended a similar debate at the Conservative conference in Manchester a week later where Chris Skidmore MP called for “a personal revolution not a public service revolution”.
All of this debate and deep thinking made me wonder if the real beauty of use of digital in public service is how it can bring solutions together to focus on the needs of the person, and I sketched this picture in my pad as I listened:
With our new NHS England contract in mind, it became very clear to me that digital really can put the control back into the hands of citizens and patients. For the most vulnerable and those with the most health inequalities, that’s highly valuable. The potential for the general population is also enormous.
In fact, if we can design a future where we use data to see what our health issues may be down the line, we can use digital to find out what lifestyle changes we should make, and manage our own health much more effectively. The results in terms of illness prevention – and in reducing health service intervention – could be a real game-changer.
And surely that’s a good enough reason for anyone to party.