Two ICSs set to pilot a new digital health Elective Care Toolkit

Two NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) – ‘Our Dorset’ and the ‘Lancashire and South Cumbria Health and Care Partnership’ – are piloting a new digital health Elective Care Toolkit designed to support overstretched NHS staff.

The elective backlog is one of the most pressing challenges the NHS faces – and with digital technologies now confirmed as an NHS 2022/23 priority, digital leaders are rolling out proven technologies that can ease the pressure.

The Elective Care Toolkit has been curated by ORCHA, the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps, which supplies digital health libraries in 70% of NHS regions. It is being offered free of charge to all ORCHA customers and focuses on digital solutions which match the main NHS backlog priorities: ophthalmology, musculoskeletal conditions (MSK), cardiology and dermatology.

The toolkit differs from existing approaches in that, rather than suggesting a single solution in each pathway, it offers guidance on the best tested technology that can be used at every stage of the elective care process. It includes technologies that are proven and able for quick deployment and greatest impact. For example:

  • An app which could save an estimated 1.7m hours of nursing time if deployed for use in eye services.
  • Another which reduces the need for pre-op assessment appointments in MSK by 60%
  • A cardiology care app which reduces the number of patients dropping out of rehabilitation by more than 50%

Crystal Dennis, head of Digital Services at Home with Our Dorset ICS, said:

Elective care has a large challenge in its recovering journey and digital health technologies can help provide support and assistance to patients, and their carers whilst waiting, during treatment and post treatment. Given that a motivated patient can expect to actively manage themselves, both in the period leading up to elective care and through their recovery period, digital has significant application throughout this process, one which has historically been a more passive experience for the patient.

“Working with a toolkit like this is an excellent way forward for us. It helps focus our busy clinicians on just the apps they need – along with the assurance that they have been purposely selected by their peers and undergone an evaluation process to demonstrate that the tools are fit for purpose/DTAC-approved – and sets the patient up for success.”

Linda Vernon, Digital Culture & Transformation Clinical Lead at Lancashire & South Cumbria Health & Care Partnership said:

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put both our clinical staff and administrative support staff under extreme pressure. Whilst we’re dealing with the impact of new COVID variants, our waiting lists for routine elective care continue to grow. We are trialling ORCHA’s elective care toolkit because want to be absolutely sure that our teams have access to the very best digital tools to help them transform the delivery of the many high-volume and low-complexity tasks associated with supporting patients through some of our elective pathways. We know that ORCHA-approved apps will be clinically safe, responsible with patient data and easy to use.”

ORCHA’s managing director, Dr Lloyd Humphreys, said: “We know that digital solutions are low on the priority lists of many NHS staff, which is why only 2% of people are getting recommendations for tech from nurses and 3% from hospital consultants.

“Therefore, the rationale for the toolkit is that overstretched staff don’t need more technology, they need the right portfolio of technologies that can embed within their existing pathways and support traditional care. During the pandemic, digital technologies were used to good effect but often as a blanket and untargeted approach to replace other forms of care and ease pressures. Now, we need a more strategic and targeted approach. Technology needs to have a ‘force multiplier’ effect for the NHS in the wake of staff shortages, where it complements, enhances and supports health and care workers and helps patients at each stage of their treatment journey.”


Read more about the Elective Care 2022/23 Digital Health Toolkit here