• Government’s digital director general leading candidate for CEO of new NHS tech unit
  • Previously worked under Matt Hancock at DCMS
  • Previous jobs include cybersecurity director and British ambassador to Israel

A senior civil servant who used to work for Matt Hancock is a favoured contender to lead the health’s secretary’s new tech unit, HSJ has been told.

Multiple sources familiar with discussions have told HSJ the government’s director general of digital and media, Matthew Gould, is likely to become chief executive of NHSX.

Mr Gould has been employed by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2016, where Mr Hancock was a minister until his appointment as health and social care secretary in July last year.

Mr Hancock has previously brought several senior staff who had worked at DCMS – including his chief technology advisor Hadley Beeman – over to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Mr Gould has previously served as British ambassador to Israel, as the government’s director of cybersecurity, and has held many senior roles in the civil service. His current role as director general for digital and media is focused on improving the UK’s digital economy.

On Tuesday, Mr Hancock confirmed the formation of NHSX, a tech unit that would take over national oversight of the NHS digital strategy from April this year. It will assume many of the responsibilities and senior staff that currently sit within NHS England and the DHSC.

Mr Hancock declined to comment when asked by HSJ about Mr Gould’s appointment this week but sources that spoke to HSJ were broadly positive about his likely appointment.

NHSX is set-up as a joint venture between DHSC and NHS England. Mr Gould, if his appointment is confirmed, will report to both NHS England and Mr Hancock. 

Senior staff within NHSX who will report to the chief executive will include NHS chief clinical information officer Simon Eccles, chief information officer Will Smart, and interim chief digital officer Tara Donnelly.

Mr Gould and NHS England were approached for comment for this story.