Health secretary Matt Hancock announces new unit for digital, data and technology: NHSX

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that a new joint unit bringing together leaders of the digital agenda across the health service is to be created.
By Leontina Postelnicu
07:47 AM
Matt Hancock, NHSX

Credit: Graeme Robertson/ Getty Images

Called NHSX, the new venture willl report to the health secretary and the chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement, overseeing NHS Digital, and work closely with other central government functions, including the Government Digital Service.

On the record

During Health and Social Care questions in the House of Commons yesterday, Hancock said: “NHSX will report jointly to the NHS and to me, and it will lead this vital [digital] agenda so that the NHS can be a world leader in emerging technologies that help to cut costs and save lives.”

NHSX will be responsible for setting national policy, developing and mandating standards for the use of technology in the health service, and revamping procurement through “streamlined spend control” and new frameworks supporting these standards, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

“This new joint venture between the organisations who currently define digital strategy and commission digital services will create cohesion in these activities [digital transformation programme] by concentrating work and capabilities in one unit.

“Within NHS Digital we view NHSX as an important and welcome initiative and we are absolutely committed to working closely with colleagues in NHSX to make this new venture a success,” said NHS Digital CEO Sarah Wilkinson.

Why it matters

The creation of NHSX marks another move in a series of initiatives launched by Hancock to overhaul the use of technology across the NHS since being appointed as health secretary in July last year, from naming technology as one of his key early priorities to releasing a vision for digital, data and technology or banning the NHS from purchasing fax machines.

With responsibility split between various agencies, the DHSC said NHSX would address the “slow” pace of change by “bringing together all the levers of policy, implementation and change for the first time”.

Last week, in a speech at an NHS England event, Hancock said healthcare staff should be able to use email to contact patients with information about their appointments, and he told the Health Service Journal [paywall] on Tuesday:

“It took me seven months to get a statement out of all of the various parts of the system that it is okay to use email and that it should be used by default. That statement is already a decade later than the rest of the world. Having one division of the department, that is also part of the NHS, that drives that agenda [NHSX] will bring that together.”

What comes next

Meanwhile, the DHSC also released an updated code of conduct for AI and other data-driven health care technologies, which CCIO for health and care Simon Eccles said “sets the bar companies will need to meet to bring their products into the NHS”.

“AI must be used responsibly and our code of conduct sets a gold-standard set of rules to ensure patient data is always protected and the systems we use are some of the safest in the world,” the health secretary added.