Secretary of State Victoria Atkins has renewed promises to digitise every hospital, extend use of the NHS app to enable patients to manage all appointments, a new NHS staff app to save on agency staff, and investment in digital operating theatres.

Steve Rowe, the former boss of M&S, has also been appointed to help improve productivity in the NHS, including use of digital technologies and AI.

The announcements were made by Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, speaking at a Nuffield Trust event last Friday, as she spoke about how she intended to ensure the extra £3.4 billion of investment in NHS technology will unlock productivity savings.

She made a series of digital announcements, including digitising operating theatres, which she said would “open up an extra 200,000 operating slots a year”.

Atkins also said use of agency staff would be reduced by the introduction of a “new NHS staff app, making it easier to roster electronically and ending the use of expensive off-framework agencies”.

She further went on to promise to update IT systems, “giving our doctors and nurses millions of hours back to spend with patients; rather than on hospital computer screens or computers on trolleys”.

“We will support every hospital to use electronic patient records, making the NHS the world’s largest digitally integrated healthcare system,” said Atkins.

She also promised to improve the NHS app “so patients can use it to confirm and modify all appointments”.

“This will increase choice, reduce the number of missed appointments by half a million every year, and make the NHS app the front door for prevention as well as for cure – somewhere patients can book vaccinations and access all their preventative tests in one place,” said Atkins.

She said the new NHS productivity plan, along with the Long-Term Workforce Plan, will see productivity grow by two per cent per year, which she said would equate to unlocking £35 billion of savings by the end of this decade.

The Secretary of State went on to promise to seize the opportunities of AI for the benefit of our health, saying that it’s use has already revolutionised stroke care across the NHS – halving the time it takes to treat people.

“Now, we will use AI to potentially cut in half the form filling by doctors and nurses. And upgrade over one hundred MRI scanners across England, so that more than 130,000 patients a year can receive their results faster.”