The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has denied speculation that it plans to create a new tech unit to drive digital transformation in the NHS.
It was reported in HSJ [paywall] that interim findings of a review of national NHS IT leadership, proposed a new unit to focus on cancer screening, end-of-life care, mental health, outpatients and learning disabilities services.
According to an HSJ source, the proposed taskforce would employ up to 300 people, with running costs funded by NHSX and NHS Digital (NHSD) budgets.
However, the DHSC told Healthcare IT News there were no plans and no need for a third NHS tech unit. A spokesperson praised the “vital roles” of NHSX and NHSD during the COVID-19 crisis.
WHY IT MATTERS
Health secretary Matt Hancock commissioned the tech review in July, which is being led by NHSD chair, Laura Wade-Gery with consultants McKinsey & Co.
It is intended to determine the capabilities and digital operating model across NHSD, NHSX and NHS England (NHSE), needed to drive the wider system transformation envisaged in the NHS long-term plan.
According to the DHSC: “The review is about how we create the right conditions for the wider system to ensure that digital is always part of the conversation, mindset and culture when transforming services and ways of working.”
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Earlier this month, a report on digital transformation in the NHS warned the NHS and the DHSC need to move on from the track record of two decades’ worth of failed IT programmes.
Hancock first announced the launch of NHSX in February 2019, to lead the NHS digital agenda. However, the unit has faced internal controversies and scrutiny over its procurement practices. The rapid arrival of multiple new applications in the NHS has raised concerns about compliance and standardisation, with CEO Matthew Gould reportedly raising concerns that these were causing the body to lose credibility.
ON THE RECORD
A DHSC spokesperson said: “There are no plans and no need to set up a new organisation and work on how to further improve the NHS’s use of technology, digital and data is continuing.
“NHSX and NHSD are playing vital roles during the pandemic. NHSX’s strategic work, with NHSD’s delivery support, has enabled the rollout of remote working for NHS staff, ensured doctors and nurses had access to the information they needed about the patient in front of them, given citizens the digital tools they needed to access coronavirus information and services, and helped the NHS to quickly adopt virtual consultations so patients could continue to access care. We want to build on these achievements to transform and improve services as set out in the NHS long-term plan.”