We’re here to help and not get in your way – that was the message from the interim CEO of NHS Digital and CEO of NHSX at Virtual Summer School 2021.

Simon Bolton and Matthew Gould both spoke on the second, and final, day of the event about how their two organisations can work together.

Bolton, who joined NHS Digital as its interim CEO after Sarah Wilkinson stepped down, said he felt like a “pupil presenting to the teachers” as he had only been at the organisation for “six to eight weeks”.

However, the former Test and Trace CIO had a simple message for the VSS audience – we want to work with you.

“One of the things I want to bring to the role is making sure we start to work collaboratively across the system, and I think that is the message I would like to leave you with,” he said.

“It’s about us understanding what you need in the trusts and ICSs, but I think it is also about other trusts and ICSs and others having some understanding of what we are trying to do in the centre because I think it is easy to assume that we are playing at different ends of the pitch and we’re there trying to tell you what to do.

“That shouldn’t be the case, we are all genuinely on the same team, trying to collaborate together on the same end which is about improving healthcare outcomes.

“So, some empathy between us to make sure that we have got a common understanding of what we are there to do, and have recognition that we are all trying to achieve the same set of objectives, I think is massively important.”

This argument was echoed by his NHSX counterpart, Gould.

“We’re trying really heard to make sure that digital is integrated into the whole and doesn’t sit in its own silo and Simon and I, together with others, are working heard to make sure that the centre is easier to navigate and supportive of the front line not getting in the way,” he said.

Gould also highlighted how the pandemic had demonstrated the power of collaboration.

“What the last year and a half has shown is that when collectively we  – you working at the front line and Simon and I working at the centre – have a common determination to get stuff done and there’s a really shared sense of urgency then incredible stuff can happen,” he said.

The digital NHS chiefs were joined in the morning keynote session by Diana Kennedy, the chief technology officer at Bupa, who revealed the private healthcare organisation is looking to “create an open data platform” which would be built on common standards like FHIR and HL7.

She also said Bupa was here to work with the NHS to help create more advanced and personalised healthcare for patients.