• Leaked report reveals structure of NHSX for first time 
  • Specialist skunkworks project department set to have its own director 
  • Other roles outlined include head of architecture and head of cyber

A special projects unit named “NHSX skunkworks” is set to be launched within the service’s new overarching tech organisation, a leaked document has revealed. 

An NHS England and Improvement report, seen by HSJ, reveals the first details of the structure of NHSX since its official launch last month. It also includes plans for a new artificial intelligence policy team, a commercial department with a planned centre of expertise, and a social care technology team. 

Skunkworks – a term first coined in World War II – refers to specialist innovation projects that are researched independently to an organisation’s core work. The report shows plans for NHSX Skunkworks to have its own director along with five product managers, 10 lead developers and five developers. 

HSJ asked NHS England for more information on NHSX Skunkworks, including what its role will be within NHSX, but it did not provide further details before publication.

The report, NHSX – ‘To be’ structures, outlines the five “mission” projects of NHSX  reducing burden on clinicians, giving patients the tools to access services directly, ensuring clinical information can be safely accessed, improving patient safety, and using technology to improve NHS productivity  each with their own leader, as well as the staffing structure of other departments.

The NHSX’s responsibilities include setting policy for NHS technology, digital and data, streamlining communication methods across the system, and supporting new technologies. 

Other leadership and director roles outlined in the document include head of architecture, head of cyber, digital transformation director and digital transformation lead.

Matthew Honeyman, a researcher at The King’s Fund, told HSJ the plans highlight the seriousness with which the new unit is being taken. 

He said: “If this document is indeed the final organisational structure for NHSX, it really underlines the scale of the new unit and the very senior status of its chief executive [Matthew Gould] among NHS decisionmakers. Likewise, it underlines the scale of digital transformation that DHSC and NHSE/I are committed to.

“It’s notable that the lines of accountability for national digital change programmes to support this transformation will lead to the NHSX CEO.“

An NHSE spokeswoman said: “NHSX and its staff are leading the largest digital transformation programme of health and social care in the world.

“To ensure our success we are currently looking at how to enable our teams to adopt a more agile way of working that supports the delivery of our five missions, with an emphasis on implementing the very best innovations across the NHS.”

The HSJ Digital Transformation Summit, taking place at the Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon from 12-13 February 2020, unites 120+ senior leaders from across the provider, commissioning and STP landscape with those who have leveraged technology to drive tangible improvements across other industries, to discuss how to realise your digital visions in a cash-limited environment and scale up innovations to improve quality and outcomes for your local population.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will quiz NHSX and other national figures on general policy direction and co-develop solutions to their local challenges with innovators from across the country. The Summit is free to attend for senior NHS digital leaders – register your interest here https://digitaltransformation.hsj.co.uk