Last reviewed 23 November 2021

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has announced reforms that put recruitment, training and retention of NHS staff and digital transformation at the heart of the NHS in England.

The new reforms will sit alongside the strategic NHS workforce plan, which ministers previously commissioned to report in Spring, looking at what the workforce of the future should look like.

Sajid Javid also set out his intention to merge Health Education England (HEE) with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI), saying this will put long-term planning and strategy for healthcare staff recruitment and retention at the forefront of the national NHS agenda.

Building on progress made on digital transformation during the Covid-19 pandemic, he also accepted recommendations from NHS England Non-Executive Director and NHS Digital Chair Laura Wade-Gery, including to merge NHSX and NHS Digital into NHSEI.

Sajid Javid said the recommendations will improve co-operation between the key digital bodies of the NHS by bringing them under one roof for the first time.

HEE Chair Sir David Behan explained that by bringing the three functions together “at the centre of the NHS” it would reinforce the priority of workforce and allow more progress to be made more quickly. Current arrangements separate service and financial planning from workforce planning and development.

NHSX Chief Executive Matthew Gould has been making the case for digital to be integrated within the NHS for the past two years, rather than keeping it in its own silo. He said the plans will allow for a more coherent structure that will allow an acceleration of digital transformation across health and care.

NHS Digital and NHSX would form part of the new Transformation Directorate within NHSE alongside Improvement, and Innovation, Research and Life Sciences; the NHSEI Transformation Directorate would continue to lead the digital transformation agenda for the NHS and social care at national and ICS level.

The changes aim to better support the recovery of NHS services, address waiting list backlogs, and support staff, while driving forward digital reform.

A power to allow the formal legal mergers of the DHSC arm’s length bodies is being considered by Parliament as part of the Health and Care Bill, so the formal merger of HEE and NHSEI is subject to approval of that measure, expected in Summer 2022.

More information is available here.