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It is only 20 months since the health service’s baby-faced tech unit NHSX was created, but its days already appear numbered.
Much of the organisation’s workforce and functions are set to be transferred to a new planned “transformation directorate” within NHS England/Improvement, HSJ revealed on Monday.
This leaves much to unpick.
First, the move is a long-awaited recognition by the NHS’ executive leaders that digital technology must be at the heart of – not sit alongside – transformation work. In fact, NHSX’ CEO Matthew Gould underlined this in his briefing to staff on Monday following HSJ’s article.
Therefore, it seems logical to conclude that Matt Hancock’s decision to create NHSX has somewhat backfired, in that it has failed to hurdle the barrier of separation between the NHS’ technology and improvement/transformation specialists.
Perhaps the best outcome of NHSX’ brief life is that it managed to centralise much of the NHS’ and Department of Health and Social Care’s digital expertise under one umbrella (excluding NHS Digital).
That this umbrella will end up in NHSE/I’s house means the health service should be better placed to develop and implement digital transformations of high-volume care pathways.
The remaining question is: how much time and opportunity has been wasted on creating NHSX instead of building the planned structure earlier?
Heading the right way
Reason for cautious optimism has come from a fall in the number of covid patients in English hospitals below the peak seen in mid-April for the first time.
There were 17,694 covid positive patients in English hospitals on 13 February, the latest data available, compared to 18,974 at the height of the first wave on 12 April.
In another positive sign, those regions which saw their covid inpatient numbers begin to fall first are showing the fastest rates of decline. Numbers fell 31 per cent in the South West over the seven days to 13 February, 30 per cent in the South East, and 26 per cent in London and the East of England.
This suggests the slower falls in the North and Midlands may increase in pace as time goes on.