• NHSX chief says Treasury scepticism over tech investment is “misplaced”
  • Matthew Gould says investment in tech will lead to better outcomes and efficiencies

There is “misplaced” scepticism within the Treasury over the need for increased investment in health technology, according to the new chief executive of NHSX.

Matthew Gould says a key challenge for the new digital unit - recently created by health secretary Matt Hancock - will be to persuade officials to invest more capital funding into upgrading hospital IT systems and infrastructure.

Speaking about his plans for NHSX at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester today, Mr Gould said: “As I talk to colleagues in the Treasury there is scepticism that if they chuck more money in this direction it will result in productivity savings, better outcomes and so forth.

“I think that scepticism is misplaced. I think there is actually a ton of evidence there that well-judged investment in technology will lead, I mean demonstrably, to better outcomes, higher patient safety, better experience for staff [and] doctors and nurses and so forth, spending their time with patients, not fighting with computers.

“I think we will have a job to marshal that evidence and persuade the Treasury that actually this time it is worth investing in.”

He said he did not want to put a figure on how much the tech improvements would cost.

Mr Gould said the unit’s key priority will be establishing the “basics” to ensure hospitals are sufficiently connected so staff “can actually use the systems [they] have got”.

While there are some “brilliant” innovations in the health system, he said a major frustration for medical staff is how long it takes them to log in to their IT systems.

He added: “I was at a hospital last week and was talking to the chief executive and her team and what was really clear was they know that they are at the start of their journey of digitalisation.

“Their computers are old, their network doesn’t hold up, all their staff are wasting huge amounts of time logging in and so on.

“They need to spend money on it, but also their buildings need replacing and that is a really difficult position for her to manage.

“Am I confident I am going to get the money? I don’t know. What I am sure of is we will need to work really hard together with providers, together with NHS Digital and others to construct the case for this.”

Mr Gould, whose primary experience is in the civil service rather than in healthcare, will officially start as NHSX chief executive in July, but has already started work there.

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

Earlier this month NHS England chair Lord Prior called for a significant increase in NHS capital investment, but suggested this was likely to require a change of chancellor.