Framework agreement published between the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Digital

The Department of Health and Social Care has published a document entitled ‘Framework agreement between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Health and Social Care Information Centre (known as NHS Digital)’. The document sets out NHS Digital’s core responsibilities and how the relationship with DHSC works in practice, including in relation to governance and financial matters.

Following the Laura Wade-Gery review in November 2021, NHS Digital is to move into the transformation directorate of NHS England and Improvement (NHSE) and will merge legally when legislation allows. This agreement is intended for the transitional period before the dissolution of NHS Digital as a separate entity.

The guidance begins by noting that DHSC and NHS Digital “share the common objective of delivering digital transformation, live services and data services to support health and social care”, and that they “will work together in recognition of each other’s roles and areas of expertise” to “provide an effective environment for NHS Digital to achieve its objectives through the promotion of partnership and trust”, whilst ensuring that NHS Digital supports the aims and objectives of the wider government as a whole.

The purpose of the document, it continues, “is to define critical elements of the relationship between DHsC as a sponsor and NHS Digital.”

The document goes on to list NHS Digital’s main powers and duties, as laid out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012, along with its strategic aims: “to be the national information and technology partner to the health and social care system”; “to use digital technology to transform the NHS and social care”; and to “supply information and data to the health service, provide vital technological infrastructure, and help different parts of health and care work together”.

It details how DHSC is the principal accounting officer (PAO) and lists its responsibilities in this area, including advising the responsible minister on an appropriate framework of targets for NHS Digital, an appropriate budget and NHS Digital’s performance in achieving strategic objectives. In addition, the PAO is also responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place to monitor activities, address problems and make interventions as necessary, carry out assessment of risk to the department and objectives, inform NHS Digital of relevant government policy in a timely manner.

The guidance continues to set out “the basic principles guiding cooperation and collaborative working”. This includes NHS Digital’s responsibilities to DHSC, such as establishing corporate and business plans in light of the department’s wider strategic aims and priorities, informing the department of progress to help achieve policy objectives, and ensuring that forecasts and monitoring information on performance and finance are provided.

Other areas covered in the agreement include individual boards members’ responsibilities; management and financial responsibilities and controls; budgeting procedures; auditing information; and reviews.

To read the information in full, please click here.