Blog: Councillor Paul Kelly on Leading in the Digital Age
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Leading in the Digital Age

By Cllr Paul Kelly,

COSLA Spokesperson for Health & Social Care

Health, Social Work and social care services have for many years faced unrelenting pressures. We’re delivering services in an extremely challenging financial climate; we have an aging demographic, and we have significant recruitment and retention issues across the sector. The Covid pandemic seems to have exacerbated these pressures and it’s fair to say that we all recognise that delivering services in the same way is not an option.

Our challenge is to find a way of delivering sustainable public services across the whole of the health and social care system, and to improve outcomes for people in the face of increasing demands and pressures.

COSLA and the Scottish Government have joint responsibility for the delivery of the digital and data strategies for health and social care. These cover an extensive programme of work whose aim is to improve the care and wellbeing of people in Scotland by making best use of digital technologies in the design and delivery of services.

We live in a digital age and people expect to have access to services easily, and this includes health and social care. We know that using digital in health and social care will support the shift towards prevention, helping to reduce system pressures; support more effective partnership working and information sharing; and reduce duplication and increase capacity.

Key to this is ensuring that our workforce is confident in using digital and data tools, and that leaders across the sector develop a digital mindset. This means understanding what underpins successful digital transformation and having the confidence to ask the right questions to effectively scrutinise and receive assurance in relation to digital and transformational change. This will be key to digital approaches becoming embedded sustainably as part of business as usual across health, social work and social care.

In my role as COSLA spokesperson for Health & Social Care and as an elected member in North Lanarkshire, I attend a multitude of meetings. It’s fairly routine at meetings where significant decisions are being made that we discuss the impact on people, finances, risk but not digital.

Since becoming COSLA spokesperson for Health & Social Care I’ve come to realise the important role that digital, and data will need to have to enable us to deliver sustainable services. Programmes of work such as the development of the Digital Front Door, the integrated social care and health record, the national Information Governance Programme and Digital telecare all aim to support more integrated health and social care so that people accessing services have better outcomes; reduce duplication in the system so that people don’t need to repeat their information and increase capacity in a very stretched system.

So to ensure we get these benefits, digital needs to be part of conversations about health and social care in the same way as for example finance is. It is only when it is part of everyday health and social care conversation that we will be able to deliver care and support in a digital age.

One initiative to help strengthen digital leadership across health and social care is the “Leading in the Digital Age” Board Development training that has been developed by NES on behalf of COSLA and the Scottish Government.

The purpose of the training is to build an understanding of the mindset which underpins successful digital transformation. It is designed to enable board-level leaders to set and deliver strategies with regards to new ways of working and to have the confidence to ask the right questions to effectively scrutinise and receive assurance in relation to digital and transformational change.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend one of the first test sessions for this training and to provide some feedback on it. While I thought I had reasonable insight into digital and data, the session made me think very differently. It certainly increased my confidence and to really see the potential of digital and data as enablers.

The session is split into two parts. Part 1 is a pre-recorded video presentation which lasts about an hour and Part 2 is a live online interactive session with a small group of board-level colleagues and lasts around 3 hours. The live sessions can be for board level colleagues from different organisations or could be run as a session for members of a particular board. And places are fully funded by Scottish Government with no cost to individuals or organisations.

As board members we are currently working in a climate with a focus on finance, value for money, and the need to innovate, and I felt this session supported me to adopt a digital mindset and see possibilities to transform services through technology as an enabler.

Four facilitators have now been trained to deliver sessions. And dates are now available until the end of June at Leading in the Digital Age Board Development site

For any other questions or requests specific to your Board, you can contact the Digitally Enabled Workforce Team at NHS Education for Scotland directly at