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NHS Workforce and Technology Centralisation

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 23 November 2021

Yesterday we announced to the House of Commons our intention to centralise NHS workforce and technology to prioritise better care for patients. Health Education England (HEE), NHS Digital (NHSD) and NHSX will become part of NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I), putting workforce and technology at the heart of long-term planning. The plans will aim to see more patients benefit from the best possible care, with the right staff in place to meet patients’ needs.

Subject to parliamentary passage of the requisite powers within the Health and Care Bill, these changes will help ensure that service, workforce and finance planning are integrated in one place at a national and local level. They will simplify the national system for leading the NHS, ensuring a common purpose and strategic direction.

I have accepted the recommendations of Laura Wade-Gery, non-executive director at NHS England and chair of NHSD, including to merge NHSX and NHS Digital into NHSE/I. A copy of the summary report is being placed in the Library of the House. The recommendations build on the huge progress made on digital transformation during the pandemic and will improve co-operation between the key digital bodies of the NHS by bringing them under one roof for the first time.

NHSX has more than fulfilled the mandate it was given when it was set up, putting digital transformation right at the centre of the NHS’s future vision and driving effective delivery of key programmes such as the covid pass. NHS Digital has kept the NHS’s live services going, producing the shielded patients list, and run the technology that supported our vaccine deployment.

I would like to offer reassurance that in this new configuration the responsibilities for digitisation of the social care sector, and for ensuring the very highest standards of information governance and data privacy, will be retained.

Merging HEE with NHSE/I will put long-term planning and strategy for healthcare staff recruitment and retention at the forefront of the national NHS agenda. Combining HEE’s strengths with those of NHSE/I will help ensure that:

service, workforce and finance planning are properly integrated in one place, together with the work of the NHS People Plan, at national and local levels;

the changes to education and training that we need—to enable employers to recruit the health professionals they need to provide the right care to patients in future—are driven further and faster;

the record investment the Government are making in the NHS delivers for both frontline NHS organisations and patients through one national organisation, making it easier to ensure a single national strategy for the service; and

there is a simplified national system for leading the NHS, providing a single line of accountability for the whole of NHS performance.

This reform will build on the progress HEE has made and the vital role it has played during the pandemic, with record numbers of doctors and nurses currently working in the NHS.

I would like to pay tribute to colleagues at HEE, NHS Digital, and NHSX for the progress they have made, which we will continue to drive forward.