New Organization to Lead NHS Digital Strategy

Feb. 21, 2019
Goal is to create cohesion in digital development activities by concentrating work and capabilities in one unit

A new organization called NHSX is being created to take over many of the digital responsibilities that currently sit with NHS England, including leadership of NHS digital strategy. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told British publication Health Services Journal that the move was needed because the NHS has been too slow to improve its IT systems, partly because responsibility was split across too many organizations.

A press release from the new organization notes that “much NHS technology relies on systems designed for a pre-internet age. Patients are not getting the care they need because their data does not follow them around the system. Change has been slow because responsibility for digital, data and tech has been split across multiple agencies, teams and organizations. NHSX will change this by bringing together all the levers of policy, implementation and change for the first time.”

Among other things, NHSX will be responsible for:

• Setting national policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, digital and data, including data-sharing and transparency

• Developing and mandating clear standards for the use of technology in the NHS;

• Setting national strategy and mandating cyber security standards, so that NHS and social care systems have security designed in from the start; and

• Ensuring that NHS systems can talk to each other across the health and care system.

Health Services Journal reported that NHSX is being established as a joint-venture between NHS England/Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care with its own chief executive officer. It will have broad responsibility for overseeing hundreds of millions of pounds in central funding for digital technology and handle central IT contracts.

The NHSX press release quotes Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, as saying that “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 program of digital transformation ahead of us is extraordinary in terms of its scale, its complexity and the extent to which it can change lives.”