National AI strategy events

As part of our research for the development of a National Strategy for AI in Health and Social Care, we are holding events to engage with a wide range of people to ensure the outcomes of the strategy meet the needs of those working in health and adult social care, patients and the public.

If it takes people 10 minutes to log into their computers and you come talking about AI, you haven’t got the credibility to start that conversation, you need the basics in place

Wendy Clark, Chief Digital and Information Officer for NHS Blood and Transplant

Digital transformation in healthcare: what we can learn from the past

Our event: "Digital transformation in healthcare: what we can learn from the past" aimed to identify factors that have led to the success or failure of past digital transformation programmes.

Our keynote speaker was Wendy Clark, Chief Digital and Information Officer for NHS Blood and Transplant with Emma Pencheon, Policy Adviser at the NHS AI Lab as a panellist.

We also heard reflections from our audience of about 40 health and care professionals, innovators, and patients on how to best drive change in the context of the National Strategy for AI in Health and Social Care. We asked attendees to help us answer three questions during some breakout sessions:

  • What’s our vision and how do we get there?
  • How do we take people along the way?
  • How do we remove obstacles to allow for progress?

What’s our vision and how do we get there?

The National Strategy for AI in Health and Social Care should set out the high level vision for AI in health and adult social care that can be adapted to local contexts. Attendees reflected that the strategy should find a way to help local NHS leaders express the needs they have and problems they face so that innovators can develop solutions to answer those specific problems and reinforce a needs based approach to technology.

The panellists reflected during the event, that for digital transformation programmes to be successful we need to start with a clear problem that people are invested in, so that “everybody is bought into solving something”.

How do we take people along the way?

Convincing frontline staff to engage with technology transformation programmes can be hard given the daily pressures they face. Attendees reflected that setting out how AI can improve their work life is key to making change happen. Engaging with their frustrations and motivations will ensure that technology is designed to respond to the needs of health and care professionals as well as those receiving care. In addition, AI projects need to demonstrate tangible, realistic benefits throughout and not overclaim. To build the workforce and the public’s confidence in AI it is key to clearly communicate how it is evaluated for safety and effectiveness.

The panellists highlighted the importance of being able to demonstrate early evidence that the digital transformation programme that is being undertaken can deliver benefits. This was echoed by attendees during the breakout sessions who agreed that to keep people motivated there need to be clear tangible benefits from early on.

How do we remove obstacles to allow progress?

Good quality data is essential to develop AI but can be cumbersome for doctors, carers and nurses to collect. Attendees reflected that if data collection were made easier or automated, it would be less of a burden on the frontline staff, and data quality would improve. In addition, attendees discussed the importance of training frontline staff to understand what good data management looks like. NHSX has recently published Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data which seeks to address some of the challenges highlighted by attendees.

During the event, the panellists, highlighted that there are some basic infrastructural elements, like those highlighted in the NHS's digital transformation programmes, that need to be in place before having conversations about AI: “If it takes people 10 minutes to log into their computers and you come talking about AI, you haven’t got the credibility to start that conversation, you need the basics in place”.

Attendees also highlighted the importance of making technology accessible and easy to use so that it is actually an enabler and not thinking that adds a burden because it is so complex to use.