Going for Gould – Seven takeaways from CHN


Looking out on the London skyline from the sixth floor of IQVIA’s London headquarters, a sell-out crowd eagerly waited to hear what new chief executive of new NHSX had to say for himself. This was, of course, the scene of yet another very popular Cambridge Healthcare Network event on Wednesday (2 October) evening.

Matthew Gould, NHSX chief executive, made it clear from the outset that he doesn’t have a health background, which might explain the ‘start-up-esque’ jumper, but has spent his first three months visiting hospitals, GP practices and other parts of the NHS. However, his first experience and understanding of the health system came when his wife was receiving cancer treatment. He noted how his wife had to “create her own interoperability” in order to share her records between the four doctors caring for her. These experiences have helped him shape his new role.

Matthew gave a nod to his predecessors who had an incredibly difficult job of working across multiple organisations. The creation of NHSX marks a real opportunity to make progress, which those before him hadn’t had.

In typical central body style, Matthew said there were a lot of plans in place, but what was really needed was purpose. He set out NHSX’s five missions: relieve the burden on clinics and staff; put data in the hands of patients; ensure patient data is accessible across the whole health system; improve safety; and increase productivity.

As it’s Friday we thought we’d deliver seven takeaways from what we heard at the event (and at the HETT Show the day before):

  1. By optimising our use of data, we have an enormous opportunity to improve patient care and population health, manage the system, and undertake research.
  2. Social care needs to be a focus as much as it is on healthcare and should be the bit we talk about after we’ve discussed healthcare.
  3. There is a big difference between the NHS’s digital vision and the reality – Matthew pointed to some fantastic examples he has witnessed, but on his travels he also saw computers older than his children.
  4. There is a balancing act between focusing on the future of digital transformation and sorting out the present.
  5. Base standards need to be set, but Matthew realises they are something that are easy to talk about, but not to enforce. He also noted that we can’t expect everyone to use one system, but at the same time can’t have everyone doing their own thing.
  6. Matthew doesn’t want the NHS app to be all singing and all dancing, as he doesn’t want to stem innovation outside the centre. As we’re not short of innovators in the UK (but could that become a problem in itself? With everyone distracted by trying to reinvent the wheel), but we do need to remove the barriers to scaling innovation.
  7. The thing that has most impressed Matthew so far is the people. From the clinicians doing their absolute best for their patients, to innovators, inside and outside the system, trying to improve workforce and patient outcomes.

Matthew concluded that if they can find a way to put technology at the centre of patient care and scaling innovation, it will have been worthwhile. However, NHSX can’t achieve do it alone and need the support of everyone – central bodies, frontline staff and patients.

Matthew was joined on stage by Roland Sinker, chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who cycled through the rafts of innovation and digital transformation they have achieved.