UK health secretary confirms end for NHS Digital, architect of the GP data grab debacle

NHSX also doomed in shake-up of 'odd' tech leadership structure

The UK health secretary has confirmed the demise of NHS Digital and NHSX, the organisations that take various roles in NHS IT strategy and execution.

In an internal email seen by The Register, Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, said that his organisation, along with NHS Digital, would be incorporated into NHS England's Transformation Directorate, a move which he suggested would "enable the NHS to drive the people-centred, digitally-enabled, data-driven vision for which we have been advocating."

"The NHSX and NHS Digital brands will both be retired, to emphasise the single, united approach to digital transformation that the NHS will now take, and the need for organisational clarity and simplicity in how it drives this agenda forward," he said.

The email said Laura Wade-Gery, former chief executive of, has conducted a review of NHS IT strategy which recommended a more coherent approach to digital transformation.

Gould said NHSX was currently "agreeing the timeline" with NHS England to determine the movement of staff to the new organisation.

NHS England & NHS Improvement, to give it its full name, leads the National Health Service in England and is the main interface between the organisation and the government, crucially paying trusts and GP practices.

Last week health secretary Sajid Javid signalled a shake-up of the health service's IT bodies. Speaking at a conference for NHS care providers, Javid had said: "Although we've seen phenomenal work on digital transformation during this pandemic from so many people, it does strike me as odd that digital leadership is currently split across NHSE, NHSX and NHS Digital."

The Department of Health and Social Care has been asked to confirm the changes and provide a statement.

The decision to axe two digital agencies follows a £2.1bn cash injection from the Treasury, which over the next three years promises to "support innovative use of digital technology so hospitals and other care organisations are as connected and efficient as possible," according to the Autumn Statement.

Lack of clarity on NHS IT strategy and management had been flagged by the National Audit Office (NAO) spending watchdog. Before the most recent changes, three organisations had been involved.

NHS England & NHS Improvement was responsible for IT strategy and approved projects where capital cost exceeded £15m. NHS Digital was the main national body responsible for delivering this strategy. Then, in 2019, the Department of Health launched NHSX to "lead digital transformation in the NHS."

"National governance arrangements for digital transformation remain confused, despite attempts to clarify them," the NAO report said in May 2020.

NHS Digital has been mired in a battle over access to GP data in a project which gave scant time for patients to understand their data rights and makes decisions on how their medical information is handled. Plans to extract data under the General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR) project are currently suspended following a backlash from GPs. ®

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