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DHSC creates NHSX to lead digital healthcare

20/02/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

A new unit is to be set up in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to set national policy, standards and a lead in procurement for NHS England in its use of technology.

Laptop on doctor's desk

Named NHSX, it will involve experts in technology, digital, data and cyber security working with NHS organisations and the digital economy to support the development of new services.

Although none of its members have yet been named, the announcement said a chief executive officer will be given strategic responsibility for setting the national direction on technology in the health service. The person will be accountable to the health secretary and chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The responsibilities of NHSX will include setting national policy and developing best practice for using technology and data in the NHS, along with standards for their use and ensuring that systems across health and social care can talk to each other.

These will be accompanied by setting up its own prototyping and development capability for new technologies, ensuring that all the source code is open by default, and reforming procurement through standards, spend controls and new frameworks.

Also within its brief are setting a national strategy and maintaining cyber security standards, supported by new processes for technology spending, domain name management and website security. In addition, it will develop digital training and the relevant culture within the NHS.

Collaboration and oversight

The organisation will also work closely with the Government Digital Service and other central government bodies and, according to a report in HSJ, have oversight of NHS Digital, the provider of technology services to NHS England. This will effectively place technology and data policy closer to the health secretary.

The DHSC indicated that NHS Digital will focus on its core responsibilities of delivering data and statistics and managing national programmes and infrastructure such as the NHS Spine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.”

Hancock, along with Matthew Swindells, the deputy chief executive of NHS England, and Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, emphasised the importance of the move in supporting the NHS Long Term Plan, which points to an increasing use of digital tools and giving patients the option of ‘digital first’ primary care.

Creating cohesion

Wilkinson commented: “This new joint venture between the organisations who 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.”

According to the HSJ report, NHSX will begin operating in April and take over all of its responsibilities by October.

Image by Free-Photos (Pixabay), CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

Extra lines on role of NHS Digital added on morning of 20 February on receiving info from DHSC

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