Find out about the background to this report.

Technological advancements have resulted in seismic shifts in how we live, work, communicate and learn - touching many parts of our lives, with health and care being no exception. The pace of innovation has been rapid, further catapulted forward by the introduction of a global pandemic. Although some digital innovation can be traced back to a coronavirus (COVID-19) response, the NHS have been considering the implications of digital technology and implementing digitally enhanced care approaches for some time. The NHS Long Term People Plan 2019 describes some of the great work already in motion and well embedded in the health and care system, as well as ambitious but realistic practical priorities for further, systemic digital transformation.

The seminal Topol review in 2019 builds on this digital ambition further, sharpening focus to the breadth and depth of digital innovation and advancement required to address the big healthcare challenges of the future. As the review points out, "within 20 years, 90% of all jobs in the NHS will require some element of digital skills.” Specifically, the Topol review recognises the role healthcare academic institutions, educators, and providers will play in preparing the future workforce, with not only the right skills, but aptitude and mindset for a technology enhanced NHS.

The Topol Review recommended that ‘Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) and practitioners need to identify the knowledge, skills, professional attributes and behaviours needed for health and care graduates to work in a technologically enabled service, and then work with educators to redesign the curricula for this purpose.’

To do this, it is important to understand and share the extent to which technology is being introduced and why, where good practice is already happening, where there is variance, and where further improvements and advancements need to be made if the future workforce are to be fully prepared for technological innovation.

The aim of the report is to provide initial insight to understand the current “digital state” in health and care education. This research is primarily looking to understand the below.

  1. The digital technologies and techniques currently used in the delivery of preregistration and undergraduate health and care education. For example, the use of virtual learning environments, video conferencing and virtual reality.
  2. The digital literacy, digital technologies skills and techniques currently being taught within preregistration and undergraduate curricula and teaching. For example, teaching digital literacy, basic digital skills and how to use digital technologies in patient care.
  3. The specialist and technical skills needed by Faculty staff (clinical and academic).

The report aims to support the development of a national digital education strategy and provide recommendations for consideration.

This research was commenced by Health Education England prior to its merger into NHS England on 1 April 2023, and completed after the merger. It was carried out by a project team formally at Health Education England and now at NHS England, with commissioned support from the South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit (SCW CSU). References in this report to NHS England products and services include those previously developed and provided by Health Education England.

Page last reviewed: 9 May 2023
Next review due: 9 May 2024