NHS Digital and NHS England merge accelerated to January 2023 to support plan for patients

Plans for NHS Digital to merge with NHS England have been accelerated to early January 2023 to better support the NHS’s plan for patients. You can read HTN’s coverage of the plan here.

The plans, originally intended for the end of March 2023, aim to streamline more data-sharing processes across the entire NHS to benefit patients and ensure better data protection safeguards remain in place.

The move is set to create a single statutory body that is responsible for data and digital technology for the NHS, allowing patients to receive more personalised, streamlined care without the need to repeatedly share information across the system. It will also provide them with better information so that they can make more informed decisions about how and where they access treatments, and is expected to make waiting lists for speciality services and providers more accessible as a result. In addition, patients will benefit from easier access to electronic patient records (EPR) through “accelerated digital transformation services”.

DHSC notes that “huge progress” was seen in digital transformation during the pandemic, “driving efficiencies across the NHS”, with digitally mature providers considered ten percent more efficient than less digitally mature peers.

Speeding up the transfer is expected to bring faster improvements in cooperation between “the key digital bodies of the NHS by bringing them under one roof for the first time”. DHSC and NHSE will work closely with partners including the Information Commissioner and the National Data Guardian to ensure that data protection is at the fore when delivering care, protecting the health of the population, planning and improving services, and researching and developing treatments, vaccines and diagnostics.

Notably, the change meets a key recommendation in the Laura Wade-Gery review, ‘Putting data, digital and tech at the heart of transforming the NHS’.

The department hopes this new merger and accelerated plans “will better support the recovery of NHS services, address waiting list backlogs, and support hardworking staff, all while driving forwards an ambitious agenda of digital transformation and progress.”