Matt Hancock is pushing to create a new digital unit in government – labelled “NHSX” – which would give him more direct oversight of national strategy currently controlled by NHS England, HSJ has learnt.
Senior sources familiar with discussions told HSJ that, if it proceeds, the new unit would represent a major shake-up of how the multibillion-pound digital transformation programme was managed and delivered.
The proposal has sparked concern among senior figures at NHS England about the impact of separating digital work from other core-NHS operational oversight, HSJhas been told.
If it does proceed, NHSX would host the lead managers for about 40 national digital transformation projects, most of whom are currently employed by NHS England, HSJ has been told. This would include NHS chief clinical information officer Simon Eccles, chief information officer Will Smart and the chief digital officer.
While talks are at an early stage, HSJ has been told the health and social care secretary wants NHSX to be based in the Department of Health and Social Care, under a director general.
Another proposal being considered is to retain the unit within NHS England but make it more accountable to Mr Hancock and DHSC.
NHSX is also likely to affect NHS Digital, the arm’s length body that collects NHS data and runs some national IT infrastructure, such as NHSmail, the NHS Spine, and the health and social care network.
When approached by HSJ, a DHSC spokesman said it was “keen to create a platform for innovation in the NHS and [to] demonstrate to innovators that this is the best country in the world to develop and deploy health tech to solve some of healthcare’s biggest challenges”.
“We are therefore looking at ways of combining expertise across the government, NHS and industry to make this happen,” he said.
He would not comment further on NHSX.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “We are completely supportive of the approach being developed with DHSC to align national NHS work on technology and information, and agree with the approach which the secretary of state will soon be setting out.”