New NHS unit to bring together transformation teams at NHSE and NHSX

The directorate aims to maintain the pace of transformation seen under COVID-19.
By Tammy Lovell
02:20 PM

NHS England plans to create a new transformation directorate which will incorporate NHSX, according to HSJ.

The new body would bring together digital and operational improvement teams within NHS England and NHS Improvement, with the aim of continuing the rapid transformation achieved during the COVID-19 crisis, HSJ [paywall] reports.

It adds that four specialities have been prioritised for digital transformation. Public Digital has been brought in to work on initial service redesign of ophthalmologic care pathways with an overhaul of cardiology, musculoskeletal and orthopaedic care pathways due to begin later this year.

A source told Healthcare IT News that the new directorate will be run by a national director of transformation, who has already been appointed. Furthermore, the CEO of NHSX will report to the national director of transformation, according to the source.  

An NHSX spokesperson said: "This proposal would do what we have been both advocating and demonstrating - taking digital out of its silo and putting it at the heart of the NHS. 

"NHSX will continue to champion digital transformation as a joint unit of DHSC and NHS England, and no functions are transferring out of NHSX or back to the Department."


The new directorate is an attempt to ensure that digital transformation work is not siloed and drive rapid expansion to operational planning and improvement post COVID-19.     

By merging NHSX with NHS England’s and NHS Improvement’s transformation teams it aims to bring together expertise within operations, finance and technology, according to HSJ.


Since its launch in 2019, NHSX has faced internal controversies and scrutiny, with CEO Matthew Gould reportedly raising concerns that compliance and standardisation issues in the NHS were causing the body to lose credibility.

In November last year NHSE denied reports that there would be a third tech unit created to work alongside NHSX and NHS Digital based on a review commissioned by health secretary Matt Hancock in July. Results of the review which is being carried out by NHS Digital chair Laura Wade-Gery with consultants McKinsey & Co, are due to be published in Spring this year.


Faculty of Future Healthcare, chief medical strategy officer and former NHSX director of digital, Prof Sam Shah, told Healthcare IT News: “There have been a number of reviews and parliamentary reports on digital transformation in the NHS, hopefully in the next iteration the NHS can learn from the past to make patient outcomes better for the future.

“NHSX was an interesting idea but seemed to lack a coherent strategy and appeared to be marred with execution challenges, in the next stage of NHS digital transformation there needs to be some early focus on the right organisation design, delivery model and leadership.”

Dr Charles Alessi, chief clinical officer at HIMSS, said: “The news that NHSX is going to be reorganised comes as no surprise. We have seen a number of changes in configuration of arm’s length bodies since the pandemic ‘stress tested’ most of the organisations responsible for health and care in the UK. The great challenge is to make these reorganisations work better for the public and the service and to do so from day one.

"We have also seen, far too often, reorganisations which have totally immersed management in internal architectural rebuilding which did not necessarily translate into more responsive, better designed offerings for people who used them. I am hopeful that lessons have been learnt and a better connected set of organisations ensues as a result of these reorganisations."

Speaking at an online conference last week, NHSX CEO, Gould said: “You can’t have a bit over here that does tech, a bit there that does transformation, and a bit somewhere else doing current operations. The only approach that makes sense is for each organisation within health and care to incorporate the potential of digital technology in their core strategies.”

The story was updated on 16 Feb 2020.

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