In the first of our ‘In Conversation’ with series, we spoke to Salford Royal Head of Digital, Rachel Dunscombe about the digital skills required for the workforce of the future and how the NHS is working with education and the business community to enable skills development in the North.
Tell us about workforce for the future
Workforce of the future is something which is really important because we are becoming more and more digital so the workforce both in terms of the wider workforce and its ability to understand digital but also the workforce within the digital disciplines which are growing.
Within health we certainly have been doing a lot of work and we found we need to start at the beginning with kids at school and that whole career path right the way through because we find a lot of people who go into computing don’t understand the career options that are available to them. for me I’ve worked in other industries health is so much richer in terms of the data, the possibilities, the imaging that we do, we have the most amazing data sets and we have the most amazing abilities with digital futures.
How are digital skills being developed for the future within the NHS?
Some of the things that we’ve been doing are around working with schools, apprenticeships and bringing people through via The Princes’ Trust but also working with degree apprenticeships and pipelining people right the way through to make sure we have the digital skills we need for the future and that’s going to have to continue because as we shut down NHS buildings we’ll be delivering healthcare via tele-health or via the home and community and that needs to be a technology enabled path. As we do that we need to create more and more people that can support and implement innovation and technologies that allow healthcare to be implemented in different ways.
What skills will contribute to the workforce of the future?
One of the things which is very interesting to me in terms of the workforce of the future are skills like data science, we’ve started taking on data scientists and we actually do some very in depth analysis of data to tell us about personalised medicine or about precision medicine or about people’s risk or a population’s risk or a cohort’s risk and that’s a very exciting place as you have the possibility of improving healthcare for individuals or groups and that’s a very fulfilling career choice.
We do that on the big data side and the other side that’s really interesting for me at the moment is imaging, we do more and more work with imaging to use algorithms to detect things. Now instead of taking slides of people’s cells we digitally take pictures of people’s cells and can run algorithms over that to allow people to make diagnoses or support diagnoses and again there’s an awful lot of technical jobs in deploying these things and supporting them and they’re actually improving outcomes.
What are your hopes for skills development in the North?
I think we find that in the North we have an awful lot of connectedness between healthcare, local services and the talent we take on, so a lot of the people that come to us want to make a difference to their communities, and the outcomes for their communities and so for the future I want to be part of that ecosystem that incubates and that’s universities, it’s the NHS, it’s schools it’s a whole set of things that support people to become digital health professionals.
The North, in particular has that and things like that the infomatic skills development network we’ve had for ten years up here is nowhere else in the country, all of the magical ingredients are in the North for digital health in terms of the talent and certainly with the likes of Andy Burnham the support is there in terms of digital as a set of professions to actually bring that talent on and support that talent.
About Rachel Dunscombe
Rachel is Director of Digital for Salford Royal Group consisting is Salford Royal and Pennine Acute. She is also CEO of the NHS wide Digital Academy which provides post graduate training for all senior digital leaders across the NHS and takes them on a journey of transforming their organisations in digital health.