The NHS Digital chief wants to work with trusts and integrated care systems to establish what data needs to be held centrally
“We need to work with ICSs and providers to make sure we’re aligned and designing the right solutions, and then have conversations about who does what.” Simon Bolton, CEO, NHS Digital
There is considerable duplication of data between trusts, integrated care systems and national bodies, according to NHS Digital chief Simon Bolton.
Interviewed by HSJ, Bolton said he wanted to put an end to duplication and the NHS creating “two solutions to the same problem”. He said: “At the moment we overlap considerably. From speaking to chief information officers at trusts I think some see the centre – particularly NHSD and NHSX – as maybe arrogant, maybe quite detached, and the reality is we’re here to serve, support and achieve the same outcomes.”
Bolton said there was an imbalance between the amount of data trusts must submit and the ability of the centre to receive and use that information.
The role of the centre, and the way it could support trusts and integrated care services, needed to be made clearer, he said: “We need to work with ICSs and providers to make sure we’re aligned and designing the right solutions, and then have conversations about who does what.”
Data was one of the main areas where overlaps occurred, he said, but added that NHS Digital was “working with trusts and ICSs about how we create a dataset that enables an ICS to perform in their geographical place.”
The NHS does not have a “logical” approach to collecting data,” Bolton said: “Something is broken there. I haven’t yet seen a list of what data should be held centrally, by ICSs and by trusts. Starting to propose answers to those questions is a good place to start.”
A major part of NHS Digital’s role is to provide data standards to ensure consistency in NHS tech, Bolton pointed out, while at the same time enabling innovation to happen “closer to the point of care”.
Bolton joined NHSD as interim CEO in June from Test and Trace, where he had served as chief information officer since August 2020. He told HSJ that his experience at Test and Trace was an “incredible lesson in how much you can achieve in a very short period of time”.
Its technical infrastructure had to be scaled up from “legacy stuff and a few tools built incredibly quickly in someone’s kitchen at the start of the pandemic” to a system that could process hundreds of thousands of tests every day.