NHSX unit launched to oversee digital, data and technology across health service

Written by Sam Trendall on 19 February 2019 in News
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New organisation will take the lead on setting national NHS policy on tech, digital, and data

Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A newly formed organisation, dubbed NHSX, will assume nationwide responsibility for setting technology and strategy across the NHS, the government has announced.

In addition to overseeing digital, data and technology policy, the unit – which will effectively sit above NHS Digital – will also be responsible for working with industry to support the rollout of new technologies. NHSX will also be given a mandate to “reform procurement… through the application of technology standards, streamlined spend controls and new procurement frameworks”.

Creating and implementing cybersecurity standards will also fall form part of the organisation’s remit, as will promoting digital skills and training, and managing domains and websites.

It is understood that NHSX will take over responsibility for certain functions currently managed by NHS Digital – including work to develop and, ultimately, enforce digital, data and technology standards across the health service. NHS Digital will still be considered the custodian of NHS data, and will publish official statistics, as well as retaining responsibility for information governance.

Full details of what areas will be managed by NHSX and what will remain with NHS Digital will be decided once a leader for the new unit has been appointed.

NHS Digital’s management will report into their counterparts at NHSX – although will remain ultimately accountable to the principal accounting officer at the Department of Health and Social Care, it is understood.

The CEO of NHSX will report to the leaders of NHS England and NHS Improvement, as well as to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.


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In addition to other parts of the NHS, the new tech unit “will work closely with the Government Digital Service and other central government functions”. This will help ensure consistency of purpose across the DDaT profession, according to the government. 

Hancock said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive of NHS Digital, welcomed the establishment of the new entity, and said her organisation would be “absolutely committed to working closely with colleagues in NHSX to make this new venture a success”.

“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,” she said. “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.”

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

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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