A report published today has found the digital skills gap and lack of data sharing in the health and care workforce is hindering the adoption and sustainability of digital health and care innovations, which could improve patient outcomes, experience of care and service efficiency.

The Human Factor: Driving digital solutions for 21st century health and care, led by the National Centre for Universities and Business’s Task Force on Digital Health and Care, calls for a greater national emphasis on health and care professionals’ digital and data literacy education.


Innovation from digital health and care technologies, continues to strengthen across the UK, and tech-savvy consumers are engaging with all kinds of apps and devices.

However, many primary and ancillary health and care professionals lack the digital education and skills to drive system-wide change.

The report found that over 85% of academic clinicians believe professional bodies must work on higher standards of digital skills in healthcare. With over 50% believing that healthcare professionals are risk averse in translating digital technology in clinical practice.

In a 2016 European Parliament survey of digital skills for health professionals, 79% said that eHealth and mobile health will have a significant impact on their careers. However, 61% had never received any training, and 80% agreed that what was available was poor.

Beverley Bryant, Chief Operating Officer at System C and Graphnet Care Alliance and co-chair of the report, says: “The UK must seize the prize of becoming one of the top digital health and social care systems and economies on the planet.

“The health and care system as we know it today can truly transform itself, with digital as an enabler and catalyst.

“This will allow work to be done in different locations, at the patients, consumers or users convenience, and with different sets of skills. This will require a re-education process and a love of ongoing learning to be added to the specialism approaches of today.”

When compared to others in Europe, the UK lags significantly across a wide basket of digital measures. Analysis of a deployment of eHealth services across Europe survey, by University of Strathclyde in 2017, placed the UK 6th (out of 29) in the digital economy and society index, 19th (out of 29) in the provision of digital public services, and 20th (out of 30) in the provision of hospital eHealth.

A simple example of a digital innovation that has not been fully used because of a skills gap in primary care is patient access to GP patient record systems.
As Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Health Care Sciences at University of Oxford, explains: “In theory almost all appointment bookings, repeat prescription requests and other administrative functions could be done online. The technology is simple, but its use is still low. This could be quickly improved by better trained and more digitally confident healthcare professionals”.

John Jeans, Chairman, Digital Health and Care Institute and co-chair of the report, says: “Through our research, we have confirmed the critical role business has to play in driving digital health and care. In developing digital solutions, the industry needs to understand the context in which they will be applied, the workforce that will use them, and how their adoption can positively impact service delivery, patient care and outcomes.

“Business also needs to be a major player in the training of health and care professionals, in order for their solutions to be implemented and become sustainable.”

Almost 80% of academic clinicians believe a joined campaign by business, trainers, educators, government bodies and patient groups is needed to create the conditions for rapid digital healthcare implementation.

The report includes nine recommendations and a call to action to establish a national campaign for digital health and care skills to improve digital skills for professionals, consumers, care users and patients.

Dr David Docherty OBE, Chief Executive, National Centre for Universities and Business, says: “Digital health and care businesses in the UK can be world-leading in developing innovation and employability in this vital new world, but much must be done to scale up before we miss the boat to take advantage of the digital revolution.”


About The National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB)

Promoting business-university collaboration for a prosperous and inclusive economy and society

As a membership not-for-profit organisation, the National Centre brings together leaders from across higher education and business to tackle issues of shared interest.

The National Centre for Universities assembled a Task Force of more than 50 experts from business, universities, research councils, consultancies, public and commercial health and social care providers, policy makers and patient groups. This team explored ways in which universities, industry, public and private health and care providers, government, patients and users can successfully partner to deliver the changes necessary for 21st century healthcare. In this, our final report, we focus on the human factors in bringing about transformational change through digital technology.

The report was led by:


  • Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Chairman, Cancer Research UK; Former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
  • Beverley Bryant, Chief Operating Officer at System C and Graphnet Care Alliance; Former Director of Digital Transformation, NHS Digital, NHS England
  • John Jeans CBE, Chairman, EM Imaging; Chairman, The Digital Health and Care Institute; Non-Executive Director, ProMetic Pharma SMT Ltd.; Adviser to the Prime Minister, Medical Technologies

Principal Author:

Dr David Docherty OBE, Chief Executive, National Centre for Universities and Business


Rachel Miller, Policy Coordinator and Project Manager, National Centre for Universities and Business
Dr Nashita Patel, Former Project and Research Manager, National Centre for Universities and Business

For further information please contact Will Parsons T: +44 (0)20 7383 8191