Ex-NHS Digital CEO becomes chair of virtual primary care service

Former NHS Digital CEO, Andy Williams has been appointed as the chairman of the Board of Docly, a European virtual primary care service that is now launching with UK GP practices. Docly pioneered messaging-based consultations as an alternative to video visits and is an integral part of the digital primary care ecosystem.

As CEO of NHS Digital from 2014 to 2017, Williams developed a portfolio of programmes at national and local level that played their part in helping to change the way health and care is delivered for the benefit of patients and clinicians. Prior to his NHS position Andy held senior management positions in a range of global technology and telecommunications companies including CEO of CSC’s Managed Services business in Europe, Middle East and Africa and global lead for Alcatel-Lucent’s services business.

Andy Williams, former NHS Digital CEO and new board chairman of Docly said: “I’m delighted to be chairing the board of a company working towards the digital transformation the NHS at a time when UK general practice is changing. Record numbers of GPs are facing burnout and are leaving the NHS. Docly offers the option for doctors to work flexibly, conduct consultations in their own time and stay in practice. Docly already has a track record of offering primary care services through the right channel at the right time in Sweden and it’s a pleasure to bring this successful approach to the UK.”

Docly creates capacity for the NHS via its pre-consultation data collection tools, which give patients as much time as they need to explain and explore their symptoms through intelligent condition-specific questionnaires. Docly’s pre-consultation tools then assimilate the relevant information and deliver a targeted history to the consulting GP, along with clinical decision support based on the most up to date NICE guidelines. The efficiency stems from the doctor and the patient not needing to be connected at the same time. Doctors from all over the UK can consult for the service, helping distribute GP capacity to the areas most in need of primary care support. The evaluation, part funded by Innovate UK, will assess how closely Docly’s pre-consultation and decision support tools follow NICE guidelines, and review levels of satisfaction for doctors and patients alike.

Ipsos MORI recently found digital consultation services can help recruit and retain GPs who may not otherwise work in general practice. Over 3000 GP partners have left the NHS since 2015 and recent CCG figures show over 500,000 patients were forced to switch GP surgeries due to practice closures in 2018. Offering new ways of working is vital to retaining valued doctors in the NHS. The benefits of digital transformation for patients have been widely recognised in the NHS Long Term Plan and multiple policy frameworks. The current five-year GP contract states all patients will have the right to digital-first primary care by 2020.

Barnaby Poulton, UK managing director of Docly said: “Andy Williams’ appointment coincides with a marked acceleration of Digital Health technologies in the UK NHS. The Long Term Plan majors on Digital as a driver for delivering better health to more patients and we are looking forward to drawing on Andy’s experience as we deploy our service into sites in the NHS.”


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