The merger of NHS Digital into NHS England will happen two months earlier than has been planned.
Originally the merger was intended to be completed in March 2023, but the Department of Health and Social Care said the process should be completed by early January.
NHS Digital staff and assets will transfer to NHS England and then enter into a change programme titled Creating a New NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement.
When completed, the merger will create a single statutory body responsible for data and digital technologies for the NHS.
DHSC said the merger would benefit patients, citing improved access to patient records as patient-centric advantages of the merger.
"Accelerating the transfer will lead to faster improvements in cooperation between the key digital bodies of the NHS by bringing them under one roof for the first time," DHSC said. "This will ensure the health and care sector is fully equipped to face the future and deliver for patients."
Key role for data
DHSC said data would remain a key role for the NHS Digital team as part of NHS England, stating that the merger would meet the key recommendations of Laura Wade-Gery's review: Putting data, digital and tech at the heart of transforming the NHS.
"In line with commitments made to Parliament, NHS England will provide the same protections for people's data as NHS Digital while taking advantage of the merger to improve processes where possible," DHSC said in a statement. The Information Commissioner and the National Data Guardian will continue to work with DHSC and NHS England, the statement added.
Merging NHS Digital and NHS England was a key action set out in the Data saves lives strategy published by DHSC in June 2022. Parliamentary approval for the transfer is required.