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More power for NHSX chief as top health service IT executive steps down

Operations director at NHS England Matthew Swindells has handed over his IT duties to the chief executive at the new digital unit, Matthew Gould

NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould had his remit widened as the top IT chief at NHS England, Matthew Swindells, announcing his departure.

Swindells, who is deputy chief executive and national director of operations and information at NHS England, will step down from the role at the end of July. He will act as an independent contractor initially providing services to Accenture’s global digital business.

According to NHS England, the executive will not be involved in any work relating to the NHS during a restricted period after leaving the health service.

As a result, Swindells’ IT responsibilities were transferred to Gould, who will take over as chief executive at NHSX, the unit formed to lead digital strategy in the health service, in the summer. In addition, NHSE has advertised a new chief operating officer role.

“Following considerable heart-searching I have decided that after a fabulous three years at NHS England it is time for me to move on to new things,” said Swindells.

“The organisation is reshaping itself around a new integrated operating model, and it is time for a fresh face as chief operating officer for the first time spanning both NHS England and NHS Improvement,” he added.

According to NHS England chair David Prior, the executive’s career in the health service has been marked by “leading transformational change”.

“[Swindells] was rightly one of the original advocates for bringing together NHS Improvement and NHS England, and he leaves an enduring impact on frontline services and care,” he said.

The executive has made the point in the past that the NHS has not been able to get the basics right when it comes to technology. Swindells also noted that the health service must change the way it works, and digitising the health service is the only way to sustain it.

“If we don’t digitise our health service, we are condemning people to die,” Swindells said at an event last year.

Compliance to open standards will be one of the key components of the intended overhaul of technology in NHS England, with modular contract structures and a sandbox regulatory environment to speed up digitisation.

Current director-general for digital and media policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Matthew Gould, was appointed as NHSX head in April. A chief technology officer will also 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).

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