Government launches new organisation to drive NHS digital, data and technology transformation

NHSX will combine the best talent from Government, the NHS and industry to create the most-advanced health and care service in the world

A new organisation was launched this week to take forward the digital transformation of the NHS.

NHSX has been created to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician in the country.

The joint venture will combine the best talent from government, the NHS, and industry to create the most-advanced health and care service in the world; diagnosing diseases earlier, freeing up staff time, and empowering patients to take greater control of their own health and wellbeing.

The programme of digital transformation ahead of us is extraordinary in terms of its scale, its complexity, and the extent to which it can change lives

Currently, much NHS technology relies on systems designed for a pre-internet age.

And patients are not getting the care they need because their data does not follow them round the system.

Change has been slow because responsibility for digital, data and tech has been split across multiple agencies, teams and organisations.

The launch of NHSX will change this by bringing together all the levers of policy, implementation, and change for the first time.

It will work with the NHS and the wider digital economy to build world-class digital services which will improve care for patients and enable medical research.

The organisation will use experts in technology, digital, data and cyber security to deliver on the Health Secretary’s tech vision and the aims of the NHS Long-Term Plan.

NHSX’s responsibilities will include:

  • Setting national policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, digital and data - including data-sharing and transparency
  • Setting standards – developing, agreeing and mandating clear standards for the use of technology in the NHS
  • Ensuring NHS systems can talk to each other across the health and care system
  • Helping to improve clinical care by delivering agile, user-focused projects
  • Supporting the use of new technologies by the NHS, both by working with industry and via its own prototyping and development capability
  • Ensuring that common technologies and services, including the NHS App, are designed so that trusts and surgeries don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time
  • Making sure that all source code is open by default so that anyone who wants to write code for the NHS can see what we need reforming procurement – helping the NHS buy the right technology through the application of technology standards, streamlined spend controls, and new procurement frameworks that support its standards
  • Setting national strategy and mandating cyber security standards so that NHS and social care systems have security designed in from the start
  • Championing and developing digital training, skills and culture so our staff are digital ready
  • Delivering an efficient process for technology spend, domain name management, and website security

The chief executive of the new organisation has been named as Matthew Gould, former director general for digital and media policy at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

He will will have strategic responsibility for setting the national direction on technology across organisations and will be accountable to the Health Secretary and chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The reality is that many hospitals are still running multiple applications, supplied by different vendors, across various departments; often with little or no integration

NHSX will also work closely with the Government Digital Service and other central government functions to learn from their experiences and ensure there is continued alignment with the digital, data and technology profession across government.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Modern technology has an incredible potential to change people’s lives for the better and revolutionise the care they receive.

“Because I care about patients getting the best treatment, I care about the NHS getting the best technology.

“But everyone knows how hard it’s been to get the NHS to adopt the best in digital.

“We’ve set out a clear tech vision for the NHS, which underpins our NHS Long-Term Plan.

“Now we’re bringing together the tech leadership into NHSX, which will be responsible for harnessing the true potential of technology to transform care, save lives, free up clinicians’ time, and empower patients to take greater control of their own health.

“NHSX will combine some of the best minds from among the NHS, leading innovators, and government into one unit to set national policy, remove red tape, and create a culture of innovation to allow the best innovations to flourish.

“This is just the beginning of the tech revolution, building on our Long-Term Plan to create a predictive, preventative, and unrivalled NHS.”

NHSX will combine some of the best minds from among the NHS, leading innovators, and government into one unit to set national policy, remove red tape, and create a culture of innovation to allow the best innovations to flourish

Matthew Swindells, deputy chief executive of NHS England, added: “The NHS Long-Term Plan builds on the significant progress of the last three years and marks a transformational shift to a more-digitally-focused NHS, from the introduction of the NHS App to digitising care across the NHS, to joining up GP and hospital records so clinicians treating patients have access to all the information they need, wherever they are.

“Bringing together the leadership around this exciting agenda in one place will help us deliver the far-reaching practical improvements from the

NHS Long-Term Plan, improve the working lives of NHS staff, and deliver better, safer care for patients.”

And Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, said: “The NHS Long-Term Plan describes a hugely-ambitious vision for the next generation of the NHS and much of that vision depends on new digital, data and technology capabilities.

“The programme of digital transformation ahead of us is extraordinary in terms of its scale, its complexity, and the extent to which it can change lives.

Modern technology has an incredible potential to change people’s lives for the better and revolutionise the care they receive

“It will require sophisticated strategic planning, strong leadership, and very-tight partnership between organisations across the system.

“This new joint venture between the organisations which currently define digital strategy and commission digital services will create cohesion in these activities by concentrating work and capabilities in one unit.

“Within NHS Digital we view NHSX as an important, and welcome, initiative and we are absolutely committed to working closely with colleagues in NHSX to make this new venture a success.”

The announcement has also been welcomed by creators of innovative technological solutions aimed at the healthcare market.

Speaking to BBH, John McCann of BridgeHead Software, said of the new organisation: “To solve the current interoperability issue, NHSX needs to think about the flow of patient information; allowing it to 'travel' with the patient and not get held up in data silos.

“The reality is that many hospitals are still running multiple applications, supplied by different vendors, across various departments; often with little or no integration.

“It's BridgeHead’s strong belief that the focus of interoperability should not be on ‘system interoperability’, but ‘data interoperability’.

“Unfortunately, many vendors simply do not want to embrace open standards. On the one hand, it might be costly for them to change their systems; on the other, they may fear losing the control or ‘lock-in’ they have with customers.

“If Matthew Gould and his team can ensure that everyone works towards the nirvana of a truly-integrated and standards-based NHS, only then will we NHSX be able to achieve its five missions and create the efficiencies needed to provide patients with the sustainable, high-quality care they deserve."

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