Beverley Bryant is to move from NHS England to the Health and Social Care Information Centre as part of a significant shift of IT responsibilities away from the commissioning board.
In a message sent to NHS England staff this afternoon, Karen Wheeler, the national director of transformation and corporate operations, says Bryant will move to the HSCIC, which will be renamed NHS Digital this summer.
She adds that this will also mark the start of a phased transfer of some areas of ‘duplicate’ and ‘overlap[ping]’ areas of IT work from one body to the other.
These areas include: standards development and implementation; the implementation and uptake of digital and online services; the delivery of major programmes and services; and primary responsibility for the procurement and management of contracts and relationships with third parties.
The moves are presented as occurring ahead of the appointment of a new NHS chief information and technology officer by NHS England. Wheeler’s letter confirms that the CITO will be part of the operations and information directorate, led by Matthew Swindells.
“As part of phase one, Beverley Bryant, director of digital technology, will move to NHS Digital,” the message says. “Beverley’s leadership and energy has helped to begin the transformation of technology across the NHS.
“We are pleased her expertise will continue to inform and shape how all health care organisations work together; helping to clarify the respective roles and responsibilities of the Department of Health, NHS England, and NHS Digital once she moves across.”
The shift of IT responsibilities looks like a logical clarification of the role of NHS England and the HSCIC when it comes to healthcare technology.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley’s reforms of the NHS created a three way structure, in which the Department of Health was given responsibility for IT policy, the commissioning board was given responsibility for commissioning the services to deliver it, and the HSCIC was given responsibility for delivery.
In practice, however, there were significant anomalies, with NHS England and the HSCIC both inheriting areas of work from NHS Connecting for Health, which ran the National Programme for IT in the NHS and its contracts, and the newer transparency and digital patient agendas.
The latter were vigorously promoted by Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s director of patients and information, who left in December to work for Australian company Telstra Health.
Kelsey also chaired the National Information Board, which was set up to try and bring the different strands of NHS IT together. It was the NIB that issued the ‘Personalised Health and Care 2020’ IT framework to support the ‘Five Year Forward View’ NHS reform plans in 2014.
Once the strategy was in place, it was Bryant who was closely associated with the two technology funds that were set up to enable trusts to bid for electronic patient records and e-prescribing projects and with a subsequent bid to Treasury for further NHS IT funding over the five years of the present Parliament.
Bryant has also been the public face of moves to create local digital roadmaps and to align these with other IT and reform plans.
Wheeler’s message says that further details of the shift in responsibilities are still to be worked out, but they will require formal consultation with trade unions and staff.
NHS England first issued and advertisement for a CITO in November. There has been little news on how the recruitment is going, although Bryant said at e-Health Week last month that the person appointed would have a “wider” role than Kelsey.
They will also chair the NIB, which is being led on an interim basis by John Newton, the chief knowledge officer at Public Health England.