In this blog, first published by Health Innovation Manchester on 21st February 2020,  Councillor Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Council and the GMCA’s Digital City Region Lead, looks at the work being done in Greater Manchester to create a new digital platform to transform health, care and other public services.

Greater Manchester’s (GM’s) councils, NHS organisations and other public bodies are working together to invest in new technologies and to explore better ways of working to join up data from the many systems across the public sector. This will allow us to use data more effectively to enhance care, improve services and save lives.

Where are we starting from? There are many fantastic examples of digital across public services, but the reality is that in GM, and across the UK, the complexity of our systems and lack of sharing information means we’re doing a disservice to our residents.

You may have experienced this yourself when trying to book a doctor’s appointment, trying to get social care support for an elderly relative, or accessing educational support for young children. Our systems and therefore our services do not easily talk to each other.

To do this, we’re creating the GM Digital Platform, to help everyone in Greater Manchester by making sure that professionals supporting you have the right information, at the right time and in the right way.

We’re first going live with this in Bury, by digitising Early Year services, and it will be rolled out to other areas in GM later this year. This is vital in our efforts to help more children in their early years to be school-ready.

Parents will be able to log in and see their child’s development records, referrals will be sped-up and paperwork will be hugely reduced. We have 200,000 0-5 year olds in Greater Manchester and we will be the first area in the UK to do this.

We’re also working to improve support for people with dementia and severe frailty through further projects in Tameside and Salford, also using the GM Digital Platform. The platform will help ensure critical information is shared between patients, carers and professionals – when and where it is needed most.

Around 30,000 people are estimated to live with dementia in Greater Manchester, with £270m spent on care and treatment each year. Also, around 5% of people aged 60-69 are moderately or severely clinical frail, rising to over a third of those aged over 85. Not only do these figures represent a large burden on the health and care system, the personal and societal costs to people living with dementia and frailty, and their carers, is huge.

The problem is that:

  • When someone calls 999, the ambulance service doesn’t have access to a patient’s health record – identifying and knowing the history of a person living with dementia and/or frailty would enable the ambulance service to better manage the person’s care and their wishes for how and where they would like to be treated.
  • If they’re admitted to hospital, the hospital often doesn’t know what medication the person is on and risks giving them something that could worsen their condition.
  • When they’re discharged, often the GP, or indeed social services, typically don’t find out what happened until much later. Too much of this is paper-based or relies on faxes.

The GM Digital Platform will help fix this.  At the same time, we will give people much more control over their own data, who’s seeing their data and for what purpose.

The GM Digital Platform provides the infrastructure that can be rapidly adopted in other priority areas to drive improvements in the health and wealth of Greater Manchester’s 2.8m citizens, whether this is in health, care or the wider public sector.  We’re already looking at how it can applied in Victim Support, Homelessness and other important areas of health.

The work is being led by a team sitting across Salford Royal Foundation Trust and the GMCA, linking in with individual local organisations, the GM Health and Social Care Partnership and Health Innovation Manchester.