In 2018, Scotland's first Digital Health and Care Strategy was published. It was a bold and ambitious strategy that recognised the health and wellbeing of the people of Scotland can, and should, be enhanced and transformed through the use of digital technology. We echo and extend the sentiment made in the foreword to that strategy: digital technology is an essential component of fit for purpose health and care services in a modern, dynamic Scotland.
What no-one could have envisaged then is the pace and scale of change brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Organisations across Scotland have used digital technologies to work differently, both to respond to Covid-19 and to sustain essential health and care services, at great speed and under incredible pressure. Continued innovation will be supported by our refreshed strategy, ensuring Scotland remains well-placed to develop, design and adopt new technologies.
Just as digital technology was at the forefront of our response to the pandemic, it will be central to how we re-build and remobilise the health and social care system as part of the recovery from Covid-19. As outlined in the recently published NHS Recovery Plan, digital technologies can support us to address backlogs in healthcare and increase capacity in the NHS. Beyond the NHS, digital technology also remains critical to how we embed and sustain health and social care integration, ensuring that technology enables people to interact seamlessly across health and care services. Health boards, local authorities, health and social care partnerships, housing organisations, industry, third and independent sector organisations have all been central to the design, development and delivery of our ambitions. .
In line with the refresh of the overall Digital Strategy for Scotland, we recognise the problems that come from digital exclusion. Digital inclusion, now more than ever, must be at the heart of what we do. We heard time and again throughout the engagement process for this strategy the need to tackle digital exclusion and provide 'digital choice'. As we continue to develop digital service choice for our citizens, this strategy recognises the imperative to do digital right. Whilst technology can and does transform lives for the better, we must ensure that no one is left behind.
Historically, an emphasis has been placed on how the system uses technology in the health and social care sector, as opposed to how people use technology. Continuing in the same vein as its predecessor, this is a strategy that seeks to put people first – whilst also recognising our impact on the planet. Many digital technologies can help us address the climate emergency, from smart sensors in the home through to greater use of remote technology that reduces travel, and it is imperative that health & care plays its part.
The time is right to refresh Scotland's Digital Health and Care Strategy, to build on and embed the rapid advances that have been made, and to really focus on enhancing and enabling citizens' access not only to services, but to their health and care data as well.
Our thanks go to everyone who has helped to deliver on these successes.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care
Councillor Stuart Currie
COSLA Spokesperson for Health and Social Care