Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, chair of the NHS Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB), has shared her view to the Digital Health Rewired audience that Norfolk and Waveney “stepped up” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The former Secretary of State for Health recognised that there is “no doubt the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitisation and collaboration” and that in the height of the pandemic, 25,000 people in Norfolk and Waveney were supported with daily contact, which helped pick up symptom deterioration early.

Hewitt also highlighted the importance of digital and collaboration in her keynote speech, which kicked off the action on the National Policy and Keynote Stage at Digital Health Rewired 2023.

She said that integrated care systems (ICSs) have been “deliberately constructed as a partnership”, which depends on close collaboration between the NHS, local and voluntary organisations, and social care providers.

The significance of collaboration was evident last year when a successful pilot from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Norfolk and Waveney led to memory assessment practitioners working in care homes across the region.

Cate McLaurin, director at Public Digital, whose purpose is to help organisations achieve digital change in an era of rising expectations, was next to speak in the session. She based her talk around the following four key points:

  • Digital is the lever for achieving alignment and collaboration
  • ICSs need governance that enables, not controls
  • There’s an opportunity to organise around the user not the institutions
  • Shared data powers effective system delivery

The final keynote of this opening session was an energetic one by Dr Paul Jones, chief digital information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

Jones then made the point although joined up care and collaboration is important, not all ICBs need the same thing. He said that “we are different, what one ICB needs may not be what another ICB needs.

The CDIO believes “we missed a trick nationally by not saying we had to have a CIO” and therefore would like to make the role compulsory across the NHS.

“I’d like to use ICBs to produce new digital leaders”, he added.

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