NHS Delivery Unit to analyse data in bid to cut waiting lists

Newly established function comes on top of investment in digital diagnostics as government seeks to get record waiting lists under control

Credit: Sergio Santos/CC BY 2.0

The Department of Health and Social Care will set up a new data-focused NHS Delivery Unit to tackle growing waiting times for treatment following the pandemic.

“We are committed to working with the NHS to tackle waiting lists and recover services through our record investment which will deliver an extra nine million checks, scans and operations for patients across the country,” said a DHSC spokesperson. “This will be supported by a new NHS Delivery Unit.”

A key function of the unit, according to Michael Barber, who is advising health secretary Sajid Javid on its establishment, should be to monitor weekly data from individual hospitals, and apply pressure where required. 

“One or two will be seriously underperforming and require firm intervention. Javid should not flinch; he should show early on that he means what he says,” he wrote in an article for The Times last month.

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Elsewhere in the piece, he called on Javid to “mobilise the entire delivery chain that connects his office to hospitals, operating theatres and patients across the country”.

“That means hospital chief executives must share the heat; hence the pressure he has started to apply,” he said. “Javid should set up a ‘war room’ next to his private office. Unannounced, he can then check in with the relevant officials between his meetings.”

Confirmation of the creation of the NHS Delivery Unit came after Johnson appointed the NHS’s chief commercial officer and vaccination lead Emily Lawson to lead a new Downing Street delivery unit in April.

In another move to help cut NHS waiting lists that have grown to unprecedented lengths during the coronavirus crisis, the government last week announced the commitment of £248m in funding for the digitisation of diagnostic services and administrative processes.

Barber, who previously established then-prime minister Tony Blair’s Downing Street delivery unit, told PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World that reports that he would lead the new NHS unit are inaccurate.

Barber founded No.10 delivery unit in 2001 and led it until 2005. He then worked in the private sector, academia and on educational reform in Pakistan, then served as first chair of the Office for Students from 2017-20.

He also proposed the public value framework that is being used to ensure public projects and programmes deliver value for money. In January, the prime minister Boris Johnson commissioned Barber to review the delivery of governmental projects and programmes.


Sam Trendall

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