Major reforms to NHS technology agenda accelerated

By Jo Makosinski | Published: 26-Oct-2022

Plans to merge NHS Digital with NHS England accelerated to early January 2023 to support Our Plan for Patients

  • Move will streamline data-sharing processes across the NHS – benefiting patients while ensuring rigorous data protection safeguards remain in place
  • Improved data sharing will ensure patients get more-streamlined care and can make more-informed choices about how, and where, they access care

Patients will benefit from more-streamlined care and be able to make more-informed choices about how, and where, they access treatment after plans to transform NHS data sharing were brought forward.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the proposed transfer of NHS Digital’s functions into NHS England (NHSE), which was due to happen at the end of March 2023, would now happen in early January.

The move will create a single statutory body responsible for data and digital technology for the NHS – meaning patients will benefit from:

  • A streamlined experience due to a reduced need to repeatedly share information across the health system
  • The ability to make more-informed choices about care by providing information about the length of wait for treatment and making waiting lists by speciality and by provider more accessible – a key part of The Government’s Our Plan For Patients.
  • Easier access to electronic patient records through accelerated digital transformation services for patients

The move will build on the progress seen on digital transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, driving efficiencies across the NHS as evidence suggests digitally-mature providers are 10% more efficient than their less-digitally-mature peers.

And accelerating the transfer will lead to faster improvements in co-operation between the key digital bodies of the NHS by bringing them under one roof for the first time.

This will ensure the health and care sector is fully equipped to face the future and deliver for patients.

In line with commitments made to Parliament, NHS England will provide the same protections for people’s data as NHS Digital, while taking advantage of the merger to improve processes where possible.

Working closely with partners, including the Information Commissioner and the National Data Guardian, DHSC and NHSE will ensure there continues to be rigorous internal controls to ensure that data is used and shared safely, securely, and appropriately to:

  • Deliver high-quality care
  • Understand and protect the health of the population
  • Effectively plan and improve services
  • Research and develop innovative treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics

Making effective use of the data collected by health and social care services is essential to delivering high-quality care, and improving the health of the population.

And the transfer, which is subject to parliamentary approval and agreement with the devolved administration, will see the statutory role of NHS Digital move to NHS England.

This is an important change to make sure that all the expertise and activity in relation to data and digital services are together in a single organisation and meets a key recommendation of Laura Wade-Gery’s review: Putting data, digital, and tech at the heart of transforming the NHS.

Following the merger, NHS Digital as a separate arms-length body of the Department for Health and Social Care will cease to exist, with staff and assets transferred to NHS England.

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