The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced on Monday (November 22) that it would integrate NHS Digital, NHSX and Health Education England into NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) as part of major workforce planning and technology reforms.
The merger is part of the government’s long-term strategy for the recruitment, training and retention of healthcare staff coupled with a digital transformation of working practices.
The overhaul is based on recommendations made by NHS Digital chair Laura Wade-Gery who led a government-commissioned review to improve patient care, centralise the NHS workforce and accelerate digital delivery.
Commenting on her recommendations, Wade-Gery, said: “In the rest of our lives, digital has really changed how we live and we must now make this true in healthcare. The goal of my review is to equip the national centre with the right capability to support Integrated Care Systems to deliver better citizen health. We need to have the culture, operating model, skills, capabilities and processes to put data, digital and technology at the heart of how we transform health services.”
It is hoped that the merger of HEE — the body responsible for the education and training of the country’s health workforce — with NHSE&I will put long-term planning and strategy for healthcare staff recruitment and retention at the forefront of the national NHS agenda.
“To ensure our record NHS investment makes a lasting impact, I am bringing workforce planning and digital transformation into the heart of the NHS,” said health secretary Sajid Javid, adding: “These reforms will support our recovery from Covid-19 and help us tackle waiting lists to give patients excellent care in years to come.”
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “NHS organisations have worked more closely than ever to respond to the Covid pandemic and these changes build on that success.
“Digital and workforce are central to transforming the NHS to tackle the backlog and recover services after the Covid pandemic, as well of course deliver on our Long Term Plan commitments and maintain momentum of the lifesaving NHS Covid vaccination programme, all while looking after thousands of patients in hospital with the virus. By coming together in this way, the whole health service can continue progress in delivering these goals.”
Commenting on the overhaul, chief executive of NHSX, Matthew Gould, said: “For the past two years, NHSX has been making the case for digital transformation in the NHS, and for digital to be integrated within the NHS rather than kept in its own silo. This reorganisation is the culmination of that campaign. It is an excellent step — a more coherent structure that will allow us to accelerate digital transformation across health and care.
“It comes after two years in which NHSX, NHS Digital and the NHS and social care frontline have together made extraordinary progress - from allowing the NHS to move to remote working and consultations in the heat of the pandemic, to introducing virtual wards and remote monitoring of patients at home, to building the tech to underpin the vaccine rollout and the NHS Covid Pass.”