Gareth Thomas: Our Digital Transformation Strategy

Dr Gareth Thomas joined the Greater Manchester health and care system in early 2023 as Digital Innovation Director for Health Innovation Manchester and NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care. Gareth was formerly the Deputy National Chief Clinical Information Officer at NHS England.

Gareth is leading the city region’s health and care digital transformation strategy and delivery of high priority activity. Accelerating the development and deployment of digital innovation is a top priority for Greater Manchester in addressing some of the city-region’s major health and care challenges. 

In this blog, Gareth introduces the digital transformation strategy, and outlines how his team are working with partners across care settings to optimise digital transformation and the delivery of tech-enabled new models of care.


Since moving into my new role as Digital Innovation Director at Health Innovation Manchester and NHS Greater Manchester, it’s clear that the city region has huge ambition for its citizens, and digital is a key ingredient to enable this.

I am a clinician by background, and alongside my role as Digital Innovation Director I work as an intensive care consultant at Salford Royal. Early in the course of my clinical career it became readily apparent to me that digital and data provide the route to improving the care of individuals, the population and the service as a whole.

We want Greater Manchester to be a place where everyone can live a good life, growing up, getting on and growing old in a greener, fairer more prosperous city region

The vision for Health Innovation Manchester is to become a recognized international leader in accelerating innovation to transform health and care. To achieve this vision, we need strong industry and academic partnerships to build a robust research development and innovation ecosystem, to really increase productivity within the region and help the 2.8 million citizens that we serve.

The wider ambition of the GM Integrated Care Partnership is for Greater Manchester to be a place where everyone can live a good life, growing up, getting on and growing old in a greener, fairer more prosperous city region. To improve care and outcomes for citizens in Greater Manchester, we must accelerate the development and deployment of digital innovation.

We want Greater Manchester to be a place where everyone can live a good life, growing up, getting on and growing old in a greener, fairer more prosperous city region

There is tremendous potential for Greater Manchester to become a world-leading digital city region. Through close collaboration with citizens and partners across the Greater Manchester health and care system, and building on the GMCA Digital Blueprint, we are developing a strategy that will meet our ambitions for digital transformation, leading to enhanced efficiency and integration across services, greater understanding of our population’s needs, and improved care for everyone.

Through conversations and workshops with over 500 individuals – including clinical, care, operational and digital professionals and citizens across GM – we now have a better understanding of the challenges they experience, and how digital transformation can help improve health outcomes. As a result of this engagement, we have developed five ambitions as part of the GM digital strategy:

Digital Strategy - Our 5 ambitions
  • Delivering integrated, coordinated and safe care to citizens
  • Enabling staff and services to operate efficiently and productively
  • Empowering citizens to manage their health and care needs
  • Understanding population health needs and act upon insights
  • Accelerating research and innovation into practice, as a globally leading centre

How will we achieve these ambitions?

We have three layers of activity will support the delivery of these ambitions.

  1. Digitise: we must invest in our core infrastructure and technology offering to improve capability across health and care in Greater Manchester. This will enable staff to deliver better, more timely care, empower citizens to contribute to their care, and allow systems leaders to understand population health alongside accelerating research and innovation.


  1. Integrate: To deliver person-centred care, we need to provide patients, carers and clinicians with access to information where and when they need it. Integration and interoperability of data across health and care is therefore essential. This means that, for example, when I am caring for a patient at Salford Royal, I can access crucial information from another hospital or their GP. I can then make better informed decisions with the patient. In addition to this integration of information across the service. We must also integrate information between the service and the user. This will empower people to contribute to their own care, for example by recording their clinical data, booking appointments, or ordering repeat prescriptions.


  1. Innovate: Building upon our strong digital foundations and our integrated data structure, we will develop and deliver proven innovations, novel technologies, and data science approaches. These will transform care pathways for individuals, whilst also giving a population level view of health and care health need, to address inequalities and design new models of care.

Underpinning digital insights and population health: The GM Care Record and GM Secure Data Environment

The ambition for GM’s digital and analytical landscape is underpinned by the GM Care Record and the GM Secure Data Environment (SDE).

The GM Care Record is a vital digital resource for the city region’s 2.8m citizens, bringing together health information from NHS and care services across all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs into one joined up record. This provides access to information for frontline health and care workers across localities and care settings. Through the use of one integrated system, over 21k frontline staff are now accessing crucial patient information for over 219k patients each month.  Patient information from 100% of GP practices in Greater Manchester is now part of the GM Care Record. There is more we can do to build wider adoption, by developing new integrated pathways and giving access to a staff and ultimately all citizens of GM.

The Secure Data Environment (SDE) continues GM’s journey to create a health system that is underpinned by secure, connected data infrastructure. SDEs are highly secure computing environments that provide remote access to de-identified health data for approved researchers to use in their analysis. They put virtual walls around data to ensure that users can only access data for which they are approved and provide them with the tools they need to conduct their work.

The launch of the of the SDE in early June has been a huge milestone for all of us in in Greater Manchester, and particularly for the 2.8 million citizens we serve. This work is underpinned by strict information governance regulations, which outline how information can be shared and for what purpose. Most recently, we received national clinical governance approval to access protected and de-identified longitudinal patient data. This will support retrospective research, real world evidence generation, clinical trial recruitment, and develop models that can be deployed into a real-world environment.

Looking ahead

A huge thank you to the teams who have done an enormous amount of work to get us to where we are today. We are at the leading edge of using technology and data to drive innovation, and we will continue to work closely with our partners at both a local, regional and national level.

We’ll be able to announce shortly more information on the work we are doing with the GM Care Record to transform care in heart failure, dementia/frailty and end of life care, as well as our plans to give citizens access to and be able to contribute to their patient information in the GM Care Record. Widening access to frontline staff to patient information to inform direct care is also a priority with a large scale plan to drive usage of the GM Care Record across care setting and in the community, with access for community pharmacists also being explored.

It’s so exciting to be working with citizens and partners across the Greater Manchester health and care system to continue this journey to achieve our ambition for Greater Manchester to become a world-leading digital city region.

The digital potential for Greater Manchester really is quite unique, and over the coming months I look forward to sharing my insights, update on our ambitions for digital transformation, and champion all the incredible work we’re doing in GM across the digital space.

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