The NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) has introduced a new Digital Health Advisory Services framework agreement to bolster digital, data, and technology (DDaT) skills within the National Health Service (NHS) workforce.  

This framework offers a compliant and cost-effective solution for health and care organisations to meet their immediate and short-term DDaT expertise requirements. 

It has been developed in collaboration with NHS England’s Transformation Directorate.  

NHS is undergoing a significant digital transformation, with technologies such as algorithm-assisted diagnosis and electronic patient records becoming increasingly prevalent.  

However, NHS SBS noted that there is often a lack of in-house skills and expertise to support these advancements, which can impact patient safety and care.  

The newly launched framework addresses this gap by providing access to specialised consultancy services. 

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According to a report commissioned by Health Education England’s Digital Readiness programme, by 2030, an additional 32,000 full-time equivalent DDaT roles will be necessary to meet the projected demand, increasing the workforce to 78,000. 

The report, which highlights the challenges in capacity and capability within the NHS digital workforce, claimed that while recruiting for these roles is a long-term objective, the NHS requires immediate solutions to support its digital transformation goals. 

The Digital Health Advisory Services framework includes 40 vetted consultancy services providers offering IT project delivery support, clinical informatics advisory, digital training, and temporary staffing with DDaT skills.  

Notably, half of these providers are small to medium enterprises with a specialisation in digital healthcare. 

Accessible at no cost, the framework can be utilised by various NHS entities, from GP practices to Integrated Care Systems, to procure support for ongoing digital projects or to expedite technological advancements within their organisations. 

NHS SBS Digital Workforce & IT Transformation senior category manager David Holbrook said: “Workforce is one of the most cited challenges facing the NHS, and the purpose of our framework agreement is to help accelerate successful digital adoption by providing immediate access to the tools, expertise, and digital skills the NHS needs and to support it in bridging the gap along its journey to transformation.”