‘We do not want to work above or against you’, NHS Digital tells trusts

Senior management figure tells clinical and administrative staff that digital organisation wants to work collaboratively

To help foster collaboration, NHS Digital is embedding its future leaders in trusts across the country one day a week

NHS Digital has pledged to the wider healthcare community that “we want to work alongside you – not above or against you”.

Executive director Eve Roodhouse said that she sees the organisation’s role as not simply to act as a national overarching body creating and rolling out digital offerings, but as a source of support locally.

“It is not just about NHS Digital products, it is also about the expertise and services we can provide, and how we can support the sharing of best practice,” she said. “Our Data Security Centre, [for example], supports organisations with advice and guidance on how to protect their data. We want trusts to view NHS Digital as another string to their bow, and extra expertise in their organisation.”

Roodhouse added that NHS Digital also wishes to learn from frontline service-delivery professionals. Its schemes to cultivate the future digital leaders of the health service typically see participants embedded in local trusts, she explained.

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“We are encouraging our future leaders in NHS Digital to spend time out in the NHS,” Roodhouse said. “A number of them are spending a day a week in trusts across the country to support them in delivery – but also to bring the knowledge and expertise they gain back into our organisation.”

NHS Digital has identified 10 areas in which it intends to focus its work to drive healthcare transformation:

  • Patient engagement: Self-care and preservation
  • Urgent and emergency care
  • Transforming general practice
  • Integrated care and social care
  • Digital medicines
  • Elective care
  • Paper free delivery at the point of care
  • Data availability for outcomes for research and oversight
  • Infrastructure
  • Public trust and security

Roodhouse said that all 10 of these aims are being worked on in parallel. While acknowledging that tackling them all at once brings a greater and more diverse range of challenges than doing so one at a time or in small clusters, she said that “there is progress being made across all of those areas”.

When asked whether legacy technology – such as Windows XP, which is still in use at a number of trusts across the country – could act as a barrier to digitisation, Roodhouse said that “the risk around cybersecurity concerns me more than the potential to act as a barrier to how we can move forward with digital”.

In the wake of the WannCry ransomware attack in May, NHS Digital is working to make sure trusts are able to spend on new PCs where necessary, according to Roodhouse.
“We have taken action since WannaCry to make sure that trusts that are on XP can upgrade those older pieces of kit, and prioritise investment in hardware – not just to take advantage of new technologies, but to protect themselves from cyberattacks,” she said. 

Roodhouse added: “This an issue [whose] profile needs to be raised in local organisations.”

The NHS Digital executive director was speaking at the UK Health Show, which took place this week in London.

Sam Trendall

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