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Thought NHS Digital's wind-down meant it would stop writing cheques? Silly you. It's gone on an IT buying spree

£37m signed up for soon-to-be-defunct non-dept public body

It may be winding down as a government unit, but NHS Digital has not stopped its tech spending, signing up suppliers for around £37m in work for the coming years.

NHS Digital has been the main national body responsible for delivering IT strategy, while NHSX, formed in 2019, was intended to "lead digital transformation in the NHS."

In a move designed to end the unclear governance of NHS IT strategy and delivery, both (ahem) "brands" are being scrapped, merging with NHS England & NHS Improvement which is responsible for NHS IT strategy and approves IT projects where capital cost exceeds £15m.

However, this has not put a stop to NHS Digital signing cheques with IT suppliers while its successor is being clarified.

Technology consultancy BJSS has won a £20m deal for citizen health technology, a programme responsible for running, maintaining, and developing the NHS website and associated services, an arrangement expected to last until August 2023.

Meanwhile, Leeds software company Aire Logic has won a £7.6m award for emergency care interoperability and data, in a contract set to come to a close in October 2023.

Also last week, IBM won a £10m deal to help "the NHS to make the best use of cloud technologies in pursuit of our collective objectives for improving the provision of health and care systems."

"The NHS Long Term Plan is ultimately underpinned by IT systems which enable the delivery of services, and which in turn depend on robust and cost-effective infrastructure and capabilities.

"The vision is to establish and run a more orchestrated, coordinated, standardised and optimal approach to Cloud adoption throughout the NHS. To do this NHSX has commissioned NHS Digital to deliver a Sustainable Hybrid Cloud Programme," the contract award notice said.

All this is aside from the £56m contract NHS Digital awarded to global consultancy Deloitte last month for "Service Continuity, Transition and Exit Contract for its controversial work on the test and trace service. That exit contract is set to run until 31 March 2022.

Incoming NHS England CEO Amanda Pritchard, appointed in August, put her own interpretation on the changes to the leadership of NHS IT strategy and delivery – which the NAO, a watchdog that oversees public spending for Parliament, had once described as "confused" – in a recent board meeting.

"Digital needs to be – should be – absolutely at the heart of everything we do in the NHS," she said.

"These changes represent a real opportunity for the NHS to approach digital transformation in an ever more joined up and coherent way. And it really does give us that chance to make real what we say and put digital at the heart of everything the NHS does," she said.

She confirmed that NHS Digital would become a new directorate within NHS England to be led by Simon Bolton as the CIO while NHSX would integrate into NHS England's transformation directorate. Both are set to come under the leadership of former US healthcare chief Dr Timothy Ferris, director of transformation at NHS England. ®


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