July Budget 2015: Healthcare technology and the digital economy

In the first all-Conservative Budget since 1996, Chancellor George Osborne has revealed that austerity will continue, with the public sector being amongst the worst casualties.

Despite this, the LGA is still concerned that local authorities will face challenging funding reductions in the coming years - up to £3.3 billion in central government funding for local services in 2016/17 - and will have to make difficult decisions as a result.

It's a problem that many believe can be solved by better using digital and technology to deliver public services in a more efficient and cost effective manner and councils must share this knowledge with each other.

"The challenge of balancing cost savings against service delivery remains; however, greater efficiencies can be achieved if business processes and systems are shared more readily across local councils," claimed Vijay Chandiramani, COO at service technology company CapacityGrid.

"Take the problem of managing fraud and error in Council Tax Reduction and Housing Benefit. Councils across the UK all follow similar processes, yet many design, procure and build their own bespoke systems at considerable cost," he added.

On the other hand, there are those that feel that public sector budget cuts actually threaten the delivering of digital and IT projects.

"National and local government IT projects across the board, from Whitehall to Whitby, will be feeling the impact of reduced budgets. In this environment, a poorly planned or implemented project could have even greater repercussions than usual," he added.

More focus on healthcare technology needed

However, while most seem to welcome the extra investment in the NHS, there are those who feel there needs to be an emphasis on using technology to improve patient care in a challenging financial environment.

"As this sector still contends with funding and budget cuts, while having to drive greater efficiency, having the right technology can really help to streamline patient relationship management in a cost effective way," claimed David Moody, VP and global practice leader of government and public sector at Verint.

"Having a centralised platform that can be accessed across the organisation along with a wider digital strategy will help create an environment of more cohesive and 'joined up' patient care," he added.

"Next generation digital economy"

Six Next Gen Digital Economy Centres will be established across the UK, with the aim of supporting innovation and partnering with regional councils across the UK in order to support user-friendly public services that are fit for the digital age.

While this demonstrates some understanding from government that public services must be brought into the 21st century, there are those who feel this Budget was lacking in digital focus.

"A handful of initiatives were announced to drive digital transformation. Collaboration between business, government and academia will drive global opportunities for UK technologies, but there is still a lot to do to increase adoption of digital public services," claimed Paul Bradbury, group business development director at specialist systems provider Civica.

"In our recent report, The Changing Landscape for Local Government, it was evident that the social and demographic landscape is changing at a pace that public services can't keep up with, particularly when it comes to delivering digital services.

"There needs to be an increased focus on data-driven insights combined with a mindset that embraces change. In an information society, intelligent data collection can empower government organisations to build insight, inform planning and improve service delivery. More attention is needed here," he added.

Image credit: Shutterstock/Gustavo Frazao