NHS England has hired a hospital chief executive to work part time as its national director for digital channels.
A note to staff from NHSE transformation director Tim Ferris today said Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust chief Professor Joe Harrison had been appointed ”national director: NHS digital channels”, in addition to his trust CEO role.
Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay and NHSE have said in recent months they will prioritise development of the NHS App.
Dr Ferris’ note said Professor Harrison would report to NHSE CEO Amanda Pritchard but “work to me with his direct reports from within our directorate”.
It comes as NHS England is carrying out a major restructure including merging with NHS Digital, and carrying out a large headcount reduction.
It said: “We are accelerating the planned rollout of new functions in the NHS App, and Joe will have a focus on ensuring that plans for it and NHS.uk are ambitious and deliverable.”
Milton Keynes has prioritised tech developments and its progress has attracted praise from ministers in recent years.
Dr Ferris said: “Many of you will know Joe and his work at Milton Keynes where his team have implemented several tech solutions, such as MyCARE Patient Portal which enables patients to manage their own appointments and view their clinical correspondence online…
“The NHS App and NHS.uk are key products for us, and our NHS Digital and NHS England teams have been making great progress on it. I believe Joe’s expertise and his insight as a frontline chief executive will be a huge asset as we take this work - on navigation, appointments, prescriptions, record access, digital therapeutics, and messaging - to the next stage.”
Speaking at a health and social care select committee meeting last week, Dr Ferris said the NHS app provides “extraordinary” potential to “empower patients” and make the healthcare system “more efficient”.
According to the government’s plan for digital health and social care, published last year, the NHS app will by March 2023 allow some patients to access hospital correspondence such as pre-consultation questionnaires, register with a GP practice online and receive messages and notifications about secondary care appointments directly through the app.