UK health tech quango strikes Gould, reckons digital policy wonk has NHSX-factor to run org

Body plans to stick data experts on cancer, mental health teams

The NHS has named the overlord of its digital health quango and talked up plans to put data specialists on cancer and mental health policy teams as tech support.

The body, NHSX, was announced in February in a bid to create a centralised health tech force to unite disparate digital roles in NHS England and make decisions on finances, data sharing and cybersecurity.

It has now chosen a head honcho: Matthew Gould, currently director-general for digital policy at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, where he worked closely with Matt Hancock, who was digital secretary before being promoted to health.

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Gould was recently criticised by members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee for giving "bland, general answers" when quizzed on Whitehall's digital policies and the relationship between DCMS and the central Government Digital Service.

"We had a Sir Humphrey performance previously, from the officials who refused point blank to tell us which departments weren't progressing as quickly as they might," Labour MP Graham Stringer later complained about the performance from Gould and two other civil servants.

A long-winded canned statement about what "success" would look like for him, issued this week, suggests Gould might have some ideas for the role, even if he can't quite spit them out:

I will know I have succeeded if in two years we have reduced the crazy amount of time that clinicians spend inputting and accessing patient information, if we have given patients the tools so they can access information and services directly from their phones, and if we have started to build a system in which patient information can be securely accessed from wherever it is needed, ensuring safer and better care as patients move around the system, and saving patients from having to tell every doctor and nurse their story over and over again.

The verbose Gould will take up his role at the organisation when it becomes operational in the summer, at which point NHSX will start looking for a CTO. So get dusting off those applications now.

Elsewhere in the NHSX missive, the health department announced plans to thrust "digital and data specialists" into NHS England's cancer and mental health national policy teams, with the aim being to focus minds on how the correct deployment of technology may improve patient experience.

The techies' to-do list predictably includes plans to offer patients access to services on their smartphones – after all, NHSX is the brainchild of app-happy Hancock.

It also talks about "making it easier to collect and use health data which can benefit research and patients", which will be of little surprise to those who have watched the NHS desperately try to suck up health data for years.

Just last month, it was revealed that NHS Digital was drawing up plans that mooted collecting "rich" and "granular" raw data on patients, from hospital and GP records, and sharing this with policymakers and researchers. ®

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