• Review finds major skills gaps at NHS Digital and reliance on “out of date technology”
  • Concerns raised about the organisation’s ability to drive digital transformation
  • NHS Digital responds with several changes, including new services and restructuring

NHS Digital has been criticised for relying on “out of date technology” and a culture that does not foster digital innovation, an internal review has found.

A summary of the “capability review”, published today as part of a wider report, shows concerns about NHS Digital’s structure, culture and digital skills.

“There is a distinct lack of agile culture and capability to meet digital product delivery needs,” it said.

The review’s finding included:

  • Concerns from “partners” about NHS Digital’s ability to deliver the Personalised Health and Care 2020 agenda, formerly known as the Paperless 2020 – the key strategy to digitalise the NHS.
  • “Major gaps” in skills, including cybersecurity, clinical, technical architecture, business analysis, software development and digital delivery.
  • NHS Digital was reliant “out of date technology in key areas”, slowing the adoption of innovative digital solutions.
  • Local health and social care organisations feel NHS Digital is distant – transmitting information rather than engaging.
  • There were concerns about a “lack of clarity” about NHS Digital’s role in delivering technology and data.
  • Data services were described as “below expectation”.

More broadly, “ambiguous expectations and blurred operation boundaries” across health and social care made it difficult for NHS Digital to offer a clear service, resulting in confusion and undermining credibility, the summary said.

NHS Digital commissioned the review internally with input from Accenture and Deloitte. The review report itself has not been made public.

It follows the Department of Health shifting delivery responsibility for Personalised Health and Care 2020 to NHS Digital last year, but it also imposed fresh oversight in the form of the Digital Delivery Board.

In response to the review, NHS Digital today published a report called Fit for 2020, outlining attempts to restructure the organisation to be more responsive and digitally agile.

These include building new unspecified national digital services, restructuring its 400 strong software development team, improving cybersecurity support services, and creating a new business intelligence tool for NHS data users.

Most of the proposals are expected to be completed by April 2018.

In a memo to stakeholders, seen by HSJ, NHS Digital chair Noel Gordon said the review identified “areas of excellence” and areas “where we need to do better”.

“We are reinventing the culture of NHS Digital to become more flexible and responsive to the very dynamic environment in which we operate,” he said.

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