NHS Digital & NHSX merge with NHS England: What does it mean for digital transformation?

This month, NHS Digital and NHSX will merge with NHS England in a major reform originally planned for March. The merger aims to improve data-sharing capabilities for streamlined patient choice and care – but what exactly does this mean for digital transformation as a whole?

What’s the reason for the merger?

The merger aims to “create a single statutory body responsible for data and digital technology for the NHS”. The idea is to improve cooperation, communication and collaboration between the NHS’s key digital bodies, who – like many other organisations within the NHS – have been disparate for some time. The merger was sparked by the outstanding impacts of accelerated digital transformation throughout the pandemic. NHS data now shows that digitally mature organisations are around 10% more efficient than those who still rely on manual and paper-based processes.

An element of the merger is the NHS’s Data Saves Lives policy, aiming to make effective use of data collected by health and social care services while maintaining the protection of patient data in line with parliamentary regulations. According to the NHS, the merge will see NHS England “working closely with partners, including the Information Commissioner and the National Data Guardian, DHSC and NHSE to ensure rigorous internal controls, and that data is used and shared safely, securely and appropriately”.

The merger aligns with NHS core values and missions, including:

  • Improving patient choice and experience with efficient and effective services, which no longer require patients to rekey information between departmental systems
  • Improving the ability to share key information with patients about their care, including waiting times
  • Streamline care with better access to electronic patient records across Trusts
  • Gain better insights into the health of the population with data, better equipping the NHS to improve it
  • Accelerate the improvement of planning and services with improved intelligence
  • Research and develop innovative new treatments, vaccines and diagnostics

What does it mean for NHS digital transformation?

With a centralised digital team, digital transformation is set to accelerate across the organisation. Including NHS Digital and NHSX within NHS England is a bold move that demonstrates its dedication to Data Saves Lives and general transformation. As with any major reform, the initial shake-ups to combining new teams may temporarily affect BAU for those working in digital teams. However, as the dust settles, 2023 is the NHS’s biggest year of transformation to date.

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