NHS Digital given £100m funding boost in 2017/18

Organisation’s annual accounts show a rise of almost 40% in the amount of central government cash it received

NHS Digital received nearly £100m extra in funding from the Department of Health and Social Care in the 2017/18 financial year, the organisation’s annual accounts have revealed.

During the 12 months to the end of March, NHS Digital received from the DHSC a grant-in-aid allocation of £354.7m. This compares with the £258.5m it was given in the prior year. The extra £96.2m equates to rise in departmental funding of 37.2%.

However, in 2017/18 NHS Digital did see its other income fall to £35.2m – down from £44.3m in the prior year. This meant that total funding for the year came in at £389.9m, compared with £302.8m in 2016/17. 

In 2017/18 NHS Digital’s operating expenditure stood at £378.1m – representing an underspend of £11.8m. This follows on from a surplus of £14.9m during the prior year.

In her foreword to the accounts, NHS Digital chief executive Sarah Wilkinson wrote: “The pace and intensity of our work will increase in 2018-19, in line with escalating demand, an incredible era of innovation and opportunity in healthcare technology, and the increasing cost and risk associated with digital, data and technology obsolescence in many parts of the system.”

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She added: “As an organisation we will adapt and modernise to meet these new challenges. We have established a dedicated programme to drive organisational transformation during the coming year, with the goal of introducing new capabilities, new delivery models increasingly integrated with external partners and providers, and new ways of working. The year ahead will be challenging and exciting in equal measure.”

Following a reorganisation during 2017/18, NHS Digital is now divided into four directorates: product development; data, insights and statistics; platforms and infrastructure; and live services and cybersecurity. 

In the product development space, one of the big launches in 2017/18 was the NHS Apps library, which now hosts 70 applications. Over the course of the year an additional three million patients also gained access to online booking for GP appointments, according to NHS Digital.

The successes of the organisation’s Data, Insights and Statistics Directorate included an annual increase of 35% in applications to its data access request service. A £47m data services platform received approval from the Treasury in October 27, with the goal of being able to “securely receive, validate, de-identify, and link existing data flowing into NHS Digital from across the health and care system” by September 2017.

In 2017/18 NHS Digital’s platforms and infrastructure group developed and deployed a national data opt-out service. During the new financial year, this directorate intends to migrate five of the organisation’s current services to cloud or serverless technology, which it claims will enable savings of up to £2m a year. 

The live services and cybersecurity unit led NHS Digital’s response to the WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017. This was just one of 290 high-severity incidents it faced during the year – of which it claims 93% “were resolved within service-level targets”. Over the course of the year, the directorate delivered an average service availability of 99.97%.

NHS Digital chairman Noel Gordon said: “We are constantly examining ways to modernise how we source our capabilities and design new services so we can meet the new demands placed on the NHS. Over the next 12 months, we will roll out improved apps and online services for the public, better decision support tools for clinicians and faster and more useful data services for those who plan and manage the NHS.”

Sam Trendall

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