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Getting the skills right

The NHS needs to urgently invest in large-scale digital skills-building

Technology is already changing what it means to deliver care, and the pace of change is only increasing as the healthcare system grapples with COVID-19. The NHS needs to urgently invest in a large scale digital skills-building programme that provides all of those involved in the patient journey with the skills required to get real value from new technology.

My training at the moment hasn’t really touched upon the development of technology in the NHS. I think this topic is one that I look into on my own accord after having frustrations with the current systems.”

NHS clinician

Some roles or procedures will vanish as technology takes them on - but others will be created in their place and there will be a number of new roles and capabilities that will be required within the NHS. These skills are distinct, and will need to be developed. The NHS needs to take seriously not just where individuals – who understand the health service and are skilled in, for instance, coding – come from, but also how they are retained and brought into the NHS workforce.

This essay discusses how the workforce can be equipped with the skills they need to exploit new technology productively.

NHS junior doctors workshop, January 2020

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“We’re not producing a workforce equipped for the 21st century. Clinicians are trained to have clinical understanding, however, this skill set is not built out to support the development of a broader skill base that encompasses wider, inter-linked problems, including multi-disciplinary working and technology.”

Director, NSHE/I



The NHS needs to urgently embark on a massive upskilling programme for patients, their carers and the broader medical community.

This programme should focus on supporting these stakeholders in adapting to the everyday use of technology in healthcare.

Workforce planning

Detailed workforce planning is required to prepare for the future. CCGs and ICSs should review their workforce to ensure they are recruiting people with the right skills.

As ICSs become more formalised they should become a data-driven system integrator. This body should look to recruit people who are highly trained in using big data to create and drive population health management, and to understand system demand and capacity.


Technological roles should be actively supported as crucial to the NHS.

Essential roles such as coders, geneticists, engineers, data translators should be bolstered and celebrated by structures and systems.

Medical education

Medical education needs to evolve to create a future fit workforce.

In collaboration with HEE and the Royal College of Medical Schools, medical schools need to adapt their curriculums to support the creation of a future workforce with the technological and digital literacy to work as part of a modern NHS.

Contact us

David Morris

David Morris

Health Services Sector Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7841 784180

Quentin  Cole

Quentin Cole

Head of Industries, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7770 303846

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