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NHSX announces new leadership

DCMS director-general Matthew Gould is to take over as chief executive of the NHSX, with recruitment set to accelerate at the newly formed digital strategy unit

New leadership has been announced for NHSX, the unit formed to lead digital strategy in the health service in England, along with plans to develop the initiative in the coming months.

Current director-general for digital and media policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Matthew Gould, will take over in the summer as chief executive of the NHSX.

Announcing the appointment, health secretary Matt Hancock praised Gould as a “brilliant” leader, who will be using his “wealth of experience in managing large digital projects” to drive the intended modernisation of the health service forward.

“[Gould] will harness the full potential of technology to improve patient experience and make our NHS the very best it can be,” Hancock added.

A chief technology officer will soon be recruited for NHSX, and a wider recruitment exercise will start in the summer.

Until NHSX becomes operational in July, current reporting lines will remain in place, with NHSX led in the interim by a senior team from NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

According to a DCMS spokesperson, there is no replacement for Gould and the department's plans around future leadership "will be announced in due course." Gould’s exit was preceded by national technology adviser Liam Maxwell’s departure in August 2018 to join Amazon Web Services.

Health tech priorities

Commenting on measures of success for his future job, Gould said he would be happy if, in two years’ time, issues such as the “crazy amount of time that clinicians spend inputting and accessing patient information” have reduced.

Mobile tools to allow patients to access health information is another priority for the new NHSX chief, as is commencing development of a system to access patient information remotely and securely as patients move around the system.

In addition to the announcement of new leadership for NHSX, the DHSC revealed plans to embed digital and data specialists alongside NHS England’s cancer and mental health national policy teams to support the initiatives of the new service.

“To ensure the benefits of new digital technology can reach patients across the country, experts from the NHS and government will be working closer together as part of NHSX to help the NHS go further, faster”
Simon Eccles, DHSC

The approach includes supporting teams in the introduction of mobile access to services by patients, as well as providing data to clinicians about diagnostic information and making it easier to collect and use health data for research.

If the model is successful, it will be rolled out as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The health secretary said the idea was to invite people from government, the private sector and the NHS to work with clinicians to reduce bureaucracy and ramp up innovation.

“If you’re an innovator and you want to serve our society, I want to welcome you to join the growing band of health tech pioneers at NHSX who are on a mission to harness technology to save lives,” said Hancock.

According to the DHSC, NHSX will also supply tech experts to support the development of a national technology strategy for screening. Modernisation intended to address high-profile failures in national screening services will be informed by an investigation on the topic to be published this month.

Use of technology and data standards will be the norm across the health system from July, when NHSX launches, according to Simon Eccles, chief clinical information officer for health and care at the DHSC.

These, Eccles said, include “a consistent language” of clinical terms to help staff share information, as well as a requirement to publish findings around successful projects and for technology developed within the NHS to be replicated elsewhere. Suppliers will also have to demonstrate they can meet “strict criteria” before selling to the NHS.

“To ensure the benefits of new digital technology can reach patients right across the country, experts from the NHS and government will be working closer together as part of NHSX to help the NHS go further, faster,” he added.

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