Image source: Richard Townshend CC BY 3.0
NHS Digital has been formally merged into NHS England, it was announced yesterday.
The move has been approved by Parliament and will see NHS England become the custodian of national health and social care datasets and the single executive non-departmental public body with responsibility for digital and data in the health service.
The merger, which was first announced in November 2021, has taken place two months earlier than originally planned and is among the key actions set out in the Data Saves Lives Strategy published by the Department for Health and Social Care.
Announcing the move to Parliament, Minister for Health and Secondary Care Will Quince MP referred to the review of data and digital in the NHS led by Laura Wade-Gery in 2021, which recommended that a single body would provide the right leadership on digital and data to support the emergence of integrated care systems.
“All the protections of people’s data which existed in NHS Digital will apply in NHS England,” he said. “Rigorous internal controls will continue to ensure that data is used and shared safely, securely and appropriately to deliver high quality care, understand and protect the health of the population, effectively plan and improve services, and research and develop innovative treatments, vaccines and diagnostics.
“This is an important step in bringing together in a single place, the essential systems and programmes to digitally transform the NHS, and to harness the full potential of data. This will enable health and social care services to use digital and data more effectively to deliver improved patient outcomes and address the key challenges we face.”
Health Education England is due to be integrated into the organisation on 1 April.
It is expected that, by the end of 2023-24, the new organisation will be between 30-40% smaller than the current combined size of NHS England, Health Education England and NHS Digital.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “Digital, data and technology already underpin so much of our personal and professional lives. Harnessing the enormous potential they hold will be key to supporting our continued management of and recovery from the pandemic, delivering on our Long Term Plan, and making services better and more sustainable – crucially in ways that support staff to do their best work, and deliver more convenient services for patients.
“Our colleagues from NHS Digital bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and expertise, and a track record of delivering major data and digital projects and services, which will continue to be invaluable in our aim to help the NHS transform and improve the health and care of the people it serves.”