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Accelerating Digital Transformation: NHSX and NHS Digital to Merge into NHS England

The NHS has today revealed that it will be absorbing both NHS Digital and NHSX, paving the way for a unified approach to digital transformation in the UK health system.

As part of this newly announced merger, the NHSX and NHS Digital brands will be retired altogether, symbolically emphasising the united approach the NHS plans to take going forward. 

 

The news came hot on the heels of a suggestion from UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid that the three-way split in digital leadership in the NHS was not the ideal long-term solution. Javid pointed to a need for clarity and simplicity in NHS England’s IT strategy.

 

According to The Register, Javid stated that "Although we've seen phenomenal work on digital transformation during this pandemic from so many people, it does strike me as odd that digital leadership is currently split across NHSE, NHSX and NHS Digital."

 

Just three days later, Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard sent a letter to staff confirming that NHS Digital and NHSX would be incorporated into NHS England. Pritchard explained that “NHS Digital will become the CIO directorate and NHSX will evolve into the strategy function in the Transformation directorate.”

 

The move was linked to a review conducted by Laura Wade-Gery, chair of NHS Digital and non-executive director of NHS England and NHS Improvement. This review was ordered in July of 2021 by Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was seeking ways in which NHS England, NHSX, and NHS Digital could better collaborate on driving digital transformation in the healthcare system.

 

Wade-Gery examined the critical capabilities of each brand, with a focus on determining the ideal operating model for facilitating the digital transformation mapped out in the NHS Long Term Plan. The conclusion of her review was in line with the health secretary’s sentiments, confirming that the UK needs “a more joined-up approach to digital transformation in the NHS national bodies.”

 

Pritchard shared Health Secretary Javid’s praise of NHSX and NHS Digital staff for their valuable work throughout the pandemic, pointing to the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine system, the NHS Covid Pass, virtual wards, and other vital innovations.

 

Going forward, Pritchard confirmed: “Our Transformation Directorate will continue to lead the digital transformation agenda for the NHS and social care at national and ICS level, alongside colleagues from Improvement and Innovation, Research and Life Sciences.”

 

However, there will be many more changes as the NHS executes this significant restructuring. So far, it has been revealed that Simon Bolton, NHS Digital’s interim CEO, will take the CIO role at NHS England, reporting to Tim Ferris (Director of Transformation for NHS England and Improvement). Health Education England will also be merging into NHS England and Improvement.

 

With Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard claiming that the key area of focus is on addressing health inequalities, we are interested to see what changes this new organisational structure will bring.

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