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NHSX experts to team up with mental health and cancer teams under new leadership


By Valeria Fiore
5 April 2019

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NHSX digital experts will work alongside NHS England’s cancer and mental health national policy teams to improve patients’ experience through technology, it has been announced.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said yesterday that this model of collaboration could be extended to other areas of the NHS if successful.

As part of this approach, NHSX digital experts will help NHS England’s teams to simplify the way patients access services from their smartphones.

They will also help clinicians with access to diagnostic information about a patient and make it easier to collect and use data that can benefit research, the DHSC said.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘We want to invite brilliant people from Government, NHS and industry [to] work closely with clinicians to cut through bureaucracy – meaning patients get access to the best innovations more quickly.’

NHSX experts will start working with mental health and cancer clinicians from July, when the new NHS body will become operational under the leadership of Matthew Gould – currently director general for digital and media policy at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

From July, NHSX will mandate a set of tech and data standards, such as the use of SNOMED-CT, a ‘language of medical terms that computers can understand’ and the necessity for every new project to be released as open source – meaning some of its components can be reused or shared for other purposes.

Commissioners and technology suppliers will need to show NHSX that they meet certain criteria before entering into a contract with the NHS, according to the code of conduct.

The NHSX mandate will also include ensuring consistent clinical language is used across the health and care sectors to help staff share information such as patient records and improve patient safety.

NHSX leadership

The DHSC also announced yesterday that Mr Gould will become NHSX’s chief executive in July, when he will take responsibility for deciding the national priorities onman technology across health and social care.

Mr Gould said: ‘I will know I have succeeded if in two years we have reduced the crazy amount of time that clinicians spend inputting and accessing patient information.

‘If we have given patients the tools so they can access information and services directly from their phones; and if we have started to build a system in which patient information can be securely accessed from wherever it is needed, ensuring safer and better care as patients move around the system, and saving patients from having to tell every doctor and nurse their story over and over again.’

NHSX will soon begin the recruitment process for a chief technology officer, who will be asked ‘to design and deliver a new internet-based technical architecture for all of the NHS and social care’, the DHSC said.

NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin welcomed the appointment of the new NHSX chief executive and said that NHSX will help trusts ‘meet new standards on technology’.

She added: ‘We also need to see adequate capital investment within the system if we are meet these ambitions.’

However, NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson expressed reservations about the new NHSX measures and their potential reach.

He said: ‘The ambition that new NHS technology will make sure that different systems can talk to each other has to be the right one. The support for the national cancer and mental health teams is also really welcome.

‘But creating yet another arms-length body at the centre, however innovative, will not in itself drive the technological revolution we all want to see. And the question must be asked why is NHS Digital not taking this forward?

Mr Dickson added: ‘If NHSX is to succeed it needs to draw on the expertise within the service and harness the fantastic work already underway as well as showing what is possible.

‘It is vital that we strike the right balance between support and control. The lessons from the past suggest that fewer diktats and more collaboration from the centre will bring about more effective change more quickly.’

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