What would Voltaire think?





By Lesley Holdsworth Scottish Government eHealth Clinical Lead (@LesleyAHPD)


Somewhere around 1740, the French philosopher Voltaire stated ‘we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation’  and by civilisation in this context he meant, advanced human social development and organisation.

Fast forward to 2017, how does that relate to Scotland today? If he were here now surely technology and its potential to impact on social development would be pretty near the top of his thinking. In all areas of our lives the use of technology is foremost. So how are we doing on the health front and particularly in Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions (NMAHP) land? Similar to many of my school reports, I think ‘could do better’ would be an honest answer.

So how can we do better? We need a clear direction and support to get there. The Scottish Government’s aim is to accelerate the pace of digital transformation to deliver improved, user-focused digital public services and to drive innovation and efficiency in the Scottish public sector. The Scottish Government are also currently in the process of developing a new Digital Health and Care strategy for Scotland.  Consultation is underway and already views and thoughts are being provided. One response of particular interest to NMAHPs has come from a collective group of 18 health organisations (including the AHP Federation) representing more than 60,000 primary care clinicians working across the length and breadth of Scotland. The response outlines the current challenges in health and social care and demonstrates how improved digital infrastructure and access to information could improve healthcare services and increase efficiency within the NHS. They call on the Scottish Government to implement a digital strategy that enables an improved infrastructure, connectivity and for record sharing across primary care. These are also the key priorities we hear from all aspects of NMAHPs working in health and social care.

Just over a year ago, I shared some personal reflections about the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions ehealth network in Scotland and the progress it had made since 2013.  In my view, there had been some pretty impressive developments and some great examples being cited. But I was also clear that we still had a good way to go.  We were also seeing an expanding NMAHP workforce with skills and understanding in ehealth much aided by the NMAHP ehealth leadership course run by NHS Education Scotland.

In late 2015, I started a new role as Scottish Government Clinical Lead for ehealth to further the NMAHP ehealth agenda. The goal was to build on the significant progress the network had already made. Since the retirement of the networks pioneer, Eunice Muir, Mark Fleming (@markfleming1) and I have been working as a team to drive this work and build on the strong foundation. But that has been over a year ago now. Can we say we’re doing better?

Undoubtedly, the network has flourished. It has swelled in number helped by another 36 NMAHPs successfully completing the NES leadership course – you can read about their very impressive and varied projects here and here. Regular network meetings and workshops have been held, providing the perfect opportunity for us all to share and learn.

With an expanded membership, we needed to review how the network was organised to ensure we make the best of everyone’s efforts and interest. Informed by what our network members told us were their key priorities and issues, we developed an action plan with four key areas where we’ve been focusing our work.



We also recognised that the structure and working arrangements of the network needed to be reviewed.

sbWe have now appointed a new chair, Sandra Blades. Sandra is a lead nurse for ehealth, one of the multi-professional clinical ehealth leads in NHS GG&C. She brings to this role her extensive experience of leading ehealth initiatives. In the chairs role, Sandra is being supported by four NMAHPs who have taken on specific lead roles within the network- we’d like to introduce you to them and explain about their roles they’re taking forward.



Catherine McGee is a speech and language therapist and also works as part of the same multi-professional ehealth leads team as Sandra in NHS GG&C. Catherine is looking at how we can promote communications and share good practice better.




Euan McComiskie is a physiotherapist by background who works as AHP Advisor within ISD for half the week and in NHS Lothian for the rest of his time. Euan is the networks’ lead for informatics and is currently working on the AHP Operational Measures. Euan also has a good handle on the national nursing informatics initiatives



Nicola Henderson is a dietitian working in NHS Forth Valley. Nicola is looking at the internal network communications and would be delighted to hear from you if have any thoughts or suggestions for improvement. Nicola also represents AHPs on the steering group that is currently scoping the specification for the MIDAS community system.



Fraser Ferguson is a physiotherapist by background and works at NHS 24 leading AHP technology developments. Fraser is working with Catherine and has a keen interest in developing the NMAHP part of the  ehealth website



So, to answer the question – what would Voltaire think? Do others look to us as an example of advanced ehealth practice? NHS England has recently published their own thoughts and plan for eHealth. The Wachter Report sets out an ambitious plan for clinical engagement and leadership, an approach we also fully support and aspire to.


What we can say with some surety however is that we have an NMAHP workforce and network increasingly keen to embrace technology in their working lives to the same extent they use it personally and have many examples of them doing just that. What is needed now however is to scale up, to mainstream, to embed these practices within a supportive infrastructure. We look forward to the publication of the new Scottish strategy to set the direction about how this will happen.  Can we do better? Always, and, Voltaire, be assured we NMAHPs are trying to live up to your expectations of our nation!


PS – all and any of us would love to hear from you – share your own ehealth experience and issues with us, want to get involved? You can do this by responding to this blog, or via the  ehealth website  or drop us a tweet!

@lesleyahp; @ markfleming1; @NickyRadley

@sandrablades; @mcgee0915; @FraserAHP; @ENMAHPinfo ; @Nic_RD_AHP



  1. Visionary as always! Delighted to report that NHSGGC podiatry is paper free and using TrakCare data to understand and inform service delivery and redesign.

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