The Scottish Government has launched a new Digital Health and Social Care Strategy that sets out how technology can support person-centred care and help to not only sustain but improve services for the future.
The new strategy has been developed over the past year, and its aims and priorities have been informed by widespread engagement with members of the public and health and social care front-line staff.
An independent panel of leading UK and international experts was also established to make recommendations to inform the development of the strategy, and was chaired by the acclaimed Professor David Bates of Harvard School of Public Health.
The Strategy has also been informed by the evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, which reported earlier this year on technology and innovation in health and social care.
Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, said that the new Strategy offered a vision and level of ambition that would position Scotland as a world leader. She said:"From the outset, we have aimed to be inclusive and collaborative, drawing upon the wide range of experience, expertise, and perspectives available.
"The new Strategy represents a real opportunity to build on achievements to date and maximise the opportunities for digital for the future, supporting the more preventative, person-centred care that we want to see."
Welcoming the new Strategy, Professor David Bates said: "Scotland is already an international leader in integrating health and social care services and is well positioned to seize the opportunities offered by digital. It has already seen a number of key successes in specific areas. Our Panel was impressed by the commitment of those tasked with developing and improving Scotland’s health and care services through the use of technology. The challenge now will be to build on these specific areas and ensure that digital technology and data science become mainstream in health and social care to reshape equip services for the future and further empower those using the services.
"The new Digital Health and Care Strategy for Scotland is a key element in achieving that success, setting out the key priorities and objectives for this shared endeavour. I urge all those with an interest in positioning Scotland as a digital leader to get involved,’ he added.
However there was strong criticism from Scottish Care, the representative body for independent social care services in Scotland.
The sector body expressed concerns about the Strategy’s failure to recognise the role of the independent care sector which delivers the vast majority of care in Scotland and employs over half of the total social services workforce.
CEO Dr Donald Macaskill said: “The failure to include the independent care sector as a partner in the new digital strategy is breathtakingly insular and a huge missed opportunity. In doing so, the real dynamic, technical and digital innovation happening in social care has been ignored.
“Instead, the Strategy seems to focus on statutory bodies ‘getting their house in order’ before extending to other parts of the health and social care sector. In reality, the vision of the Strategy can only be achieved by true partnership with the third and independent sector from the outset.
“After all, this sector supports 90% of all care home residents in Scotland and delivers over 60% of all home care hours. An effective health and social care system simply cannot be realised without this sector’s meaningful involvement.
“It is hugely disappointing and indeed dangerous that the Scottish Government continues to dismiss the contribution of care providers despite all the ways in which it relies on them to support Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens.”
A dedicated website www.digihealthcare.scot explains the Strategy’s approach, supported by case study examples, blogs and video, and stakeholders are asked to follow the Twitter feed @DigiCare4Scot for further information and to keep up to date with developments.
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