New Year [and Easter!] Digital Greetings 2018!

To mark Lesley’s impact award AHPScot are delighted to report this blog from the start of the year. When you have been inspired by this blog why not share your thoughts via a blog of your own at AHPScot?


Lesley Holdsworth @LesleyAHPD

Scottish Government Clinical Lead for Digital Health and Care

A warm welcome to 2018 and also to the Fourth industrial revolution! If you’re unfamiliar with these revolutionary categories, to recap, the First used water and steam power, the Second electric power and the Third used electronics and information technology. Now we are well into the Fourth, what is called the digital revolution and at an exponential speed never seen before with velocity, scope, and systems impact. It’s disrupting almost every industry in every country.

Can the same be said for health and social care in Scotland (H&SC)?

B2In previous blogs, I’ve tried to share what’s been going on across the NMAHP ehealth / digital word in Scotland. I’ve talked about the wider Digital agenda in Scotland, the developing NMAHP digital and leadership skills through the work of both the National NMAHP Digital Network and the NMAHP Digital Leadership Programme run by NHS Education Scotland.

But, as we enter 2018, my thoughts turn to what the forthcoming year has in store for us. Firstly, those with eagle eyes will have clocked that the words digital and digital health and care have crept into these conversations over the last few months replacing the brand that was previously ‘ehealth’. Even my job title has changed. And why? We need to simplify the terminology we use and bring us in line with the thinking and approach being used across public services in Scotland. Using different terms to essentially describe the same things results in confusion and the potential for misinterpretation at best and lack of understanding and disengagement at worse. This change also reflects the emphasis we are now placing on this agenda nationally and embedded within the ethos of the new Digital Health and Care Strategy and its associated action plan – currently being finalised by our policy colleagues in readiness for publication in the spring.

Today however, I want to share some recent conversations and thinking about what all this means for the H&SC workforce and the skills needed for this digital age.

Digital skills are fundamental to the life chances of our people and the economic success of our country. John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary Education and Skills, 2017

Despite this bold statement however you might be surprised to learn that at present, only 2% of overall H&SC transactions are digitally enabled. There are many reasons for this but undoubtedly some are directly attributable to understanding, capabilities and skills. It’s widely accepted that we have a large mountain to climb if we are to achieve the ambitions we have for successful digital transformation and to do this, we will require our greatest resource, our workforce to work differently. We know that the power of technology can be and is being used by people to help them to manage their own lives including their health and wellbeing. We also know that we need a digital workforce that understands, supports and encourages this. Just looking at these most recent statistics below shows the extent to which we are all engaging with the digital world in the UK – 92% of our population are regular internet users and the increasing rate of penetration of mobile devices has direct relevance to our agenda.


So what’s on the horizon for the H&SC workforce? It was back in 2001 that Marc Prensky coined the terms Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Natives are those who have grown up in the digital age whereas people like me and possibly some of you, are referred to Immigrants, those that have had to learn to live and adapt to the digital age. Our needs, skills and proficiencies will differ as will our development needs. Interestingly, one key fact that we mustn’t forget however is that by 2025, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials, those born between 1981–1997, increasingly supported by what’s called Generation Z (born after 1997) our the future workforce. But, that’s then and now is now – there is a degree of urgency – we need to make major leaps now and mobilise our current workforce, we can’t afford to wait till then!!

Developing a digitally enabled workforce is a key workstream of the new strategy with a clear recognition that work needs to be done in a number of areas. Digital skills include not only being able to work online using technology, but also critical thinking skills, information search skills, skills to inform decision making as well as understanding privacy, communication, systems, devices, security and keeping safe online. Digital Literacy or my preferred term, Digital capabilities are nicely explained in the graphic below.


An interesting report has just been published by NHS Education Scotland. It contains no surprises but helps to understand the workforces’ learning, development and support needs around technology. Many of its’ key recommendations for moving forward are equally applicable to the full digital landscape. These include focusing on up-skilling, learning and development and building confidence in the workforce. Leadership, management and a consideration of finance and resources were also highlighted.

So what are we going to do /are doing about this?

I am pleased to report that at a recent national meeting, a commitment was made by NES to oversee the development of a digital core capabilities framework and have it ready in time for the publication of the new strategy. It’s just the start but a critical one and we will ensure that the NMAHP voice and our issues are firmly considered and represented within the new framework. We need this guidance and direction so that we have nationally agreed ‘standards’ of what is expected of our workforce and to help us plan how we can get there.

Up skilling our workforce so that they can meaningfully and confidently engage with the digital age will be challenging and require much effort and resource. But, I am clear however that service transformation needs to happen but it can’t without a digitally skilled workforce and by creating the conditions and support for them to adapt to the fourth revolution.

I will now sign off this blog with a quote ‘attributed’ to Charles Darwin from 1859 which has just as much currency today as then …..

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”

Wishing you a digitally happy new year


 Comments and ideas welcomed @lesleyahpd





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