NHSX to Bridge the Gap Between Healthcare and Technology

On March 13 of 2019, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced the creation of NHSX, which is a new unit developed to bridge the gap between healthcare and digital technology. It aims to do this by using technology to unite the three current departments; Health and Social Care; NHS England; and NHS Improvement.

According to an email between the chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement the new department will have "oversight" over NHS Digital. Moreover, the new CEO will report to the three current departments, something which will hopefully help break down department silos and improve knowledge sharing.

NHSX will also be tasked with the following:

Ensuring information sharing and consistency
This includes implementing new strategies nationally, best practices and knowledge sharing between departments.

Establishing cybersecurity standards
NHSX is expected to introduce and enforce a set of basic technical standards that must be met by all technology or healthcare solutions used by NHS trusts. The new standards will be developed with valuable input from patients, healthcare providers, suppliers and other stakeholders, something which reflects the inclusive nature of NHSX.

Ensuring implementation
While the aforementioned standards and policies are expected to be advantageous, ensuring that they are implemented will be no easy task. Accordingly, NHSX must maximise the benefits by ensuring that they are enforced. But Hancock assured that this does not mean the NHS will be micromanaged as it would be impossible to monitor everything.

Standardised technologies and services
This includes ensuring that technologies, such as the NHS application, that are common across all NHS trusts and providers have standardised codes. Moreover, NHSX intends to leave the standardised source code open. In this way, anyone writing code for the NHS can do so with the NHS's need in mind.

While Hancock described NHSX as the "latest addition to the NHS family," the news was not welcomed by many who think of this initiative as just another promise that will eventually be forgotten. A poll on Digital Health revealed that 67% of people did not believe NHSX would succeed. Many users commented that history will continue repeating itself, with such initiatives being run by the same people under new "letterheads" and with different names.

However, others believe that Hancock's new leadership has in fact already brought about change. The fact remains that the general public, healthcare providers included, have lost hope in change and have succumbed to a culture of hopelessness and simply make-do with what they have. It is up to Hancock to change this attitude by allowing them to not only witness the change, but also be a part of it themselves.