The interim CEO at NHS Digital has said he wants the centre to be “more opinionated” as the organisation looks ahead to its upcoming merger with NHS England and Improvement.

Speaking at the Healthcare Excellence Through Technology (HETT) show on 27 September, Simon Bolton, was asked about the role of the centre when it comes to digital transformation and how to balance all the sides over the next few months.

In response, Bolton said the healthcare system was going through a “generational change” that would take more than a few months.

“As I look at the problems that we all face, I do think, and this may be an unpopular opinion, that the centre needs to be more opinionated.

“So there has been some conversations about managing convergence, across the whole system, I don’t know how many EPRs [electronic patient records] we have, as an example, but what I do know is that there are significantly too many, so that dilutes our experience and knowledge of products and also makes the whole question of interoperability more challenging as well.

“I would love to see us think really carefully, as a group, as a team looking at the NHS, is to think strategically around things like managed convergence.”

Bolton was also asked to speak about the process of deciding what NHS IT programmes remain and which are closed.

“I am not going to make any announcements here and now about which ones might stop but actually we do need to stop some stuff, we’ve started initiatives across the NHS and actually it’s very difficult to close them down because once they get running they can get a life of its own,” Bolton said.

Bolton was also quizzed on the last year, including the news that NHS England is expected to be reduced by between 30-40% then the current combined size of NHS England, Health Education England and NHS Digital by the end of 2023/24.

Bolton told attendees at the Excel in London that in the midst of headlines about the cuts, the “narrative had been lost” and that the focus should be on how the organisations “work together as a team”.

As well as working as the interim CIO at NHS Digital, Bolton is also the interim CIO at NHS England and Improvement. He used his session at HETT to also speak about the new health secretary’s commitment to A, B, C and D priorities – ambulances, backlogs, care and doctors and dentists.

In response, Bolton said he wanted to “focus on business outcomes” and ensure the health system “puts value in the right areas”.

Towards the end of the session, Bolton was questioned about strategy and what the focus of the centre will be over the next year.

While Bolton did not announce or confirm any new policies, he did say that personally, he wants to focus on; front end channels, managing convergence and joining up health and social care.