NHS Digital

NHS Digital is the trading name of the Health and Social Care Information Centre—the national provider of information, data and IT systems for commissioners, analysts and clinicians in health and social care in England, in particular those involved in NHS England.  Its mission is to harness the power of information and technology to improve health and care.  It is arranged into seven directorates which work together to improve health and social care.  They are: Strategy, Policy and Evidence; Product Development; Corporate Services; Data Services; Assurance and Risk Management; Platforms and Infrastructure; and Live Services and Cyber Security. 


NHSX is responsible for setting national policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, digital and data sharing and transparency.  It brings together teams from Department of Health & Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement with a range of skills and expertise, including clinicians, technologists, policy experts, developers, data scientists and project managers to drive the digital transformation of care and lead on policy, implementation and change.  With investment of more than £1 billion a year nationally and a significant additional spend locally, NHSX was created in April 2019 to give staff and citizens the technology they need in deliver the Secretary of State’s Technology Vision and to build on the NHS Long Term Plan in speeding up the digital transformation of the NHS and social care.

NHSX is focusing on five missions: • Reducing the burden on clinicians and staff so they can focus on patients; • Giving people the tools to access information and services directly; • Ensuring clinical information can be safely accessed, wherever it is needed; • Improving patient safety across the NHS; • Improving NHS productivity with digital technology.


Artificial intelligence holds great potential for the NHS to improve operations, productivity, and patient outcomes. Of great import is smart regulation to ensure that AI is used properly and safely. The NHS AI Lab will play a major role in coordinating regulation, seeking improvements, and streamlining the regulatory review process. NHSX plays a major role, along with the MHRA, HRA, NICE, CQC, the ICO and National Data Guardian. The UK has great potential to lead the world in AI for health while delivering the benefits of this new technology to NHS staff and patients.

Announced in 2019, the NHS AI Lab, with £250 million of Government funding, will focus on supporting innovation in an open environment where innovators, academics, clinicians and others can develop, learn, collaborate and build technologies at scale to deliver maximum impact in health and care safely and effectively.  It will be run collaboratively by NHSX and the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative and will encompass work programmes designed to: accelerate adoption of proven AI technologies (mammograms, brain scans, eye scans, heart monitoring, etc.); encourage development of AI technologies for operational efficiency purposes (e.g. predictive models that better estimate future needs for beds, drugs, devices and surgeries); create environments to test the safety and efficacy of technologies that can be used to assess patients most at risk of various diseases; train the NHS workforce of the future so they can use AI systems for day-to-day tasks; inspect algorithms already used by the NHS and those being developed by the NHS; invest in world-leading research tools and methods that help people apply ethics and regulatory requirements.

Digital Pathology & Imaging Centres of Excellence

In November 2018, Health Data Research UK (HDRUK) announced five new centres of excellence in medical imaging and digital pathology to be based in Leeds, Oxford, Coventry, Glasgow and London.  Their work will involve better partnering with more NHS trusts and further developing cutting-edge products using digital systems and AI that could improve care and save lives.  The centres are:

Funding for the centres was part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Wave 2 Challenge, Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine as HDRUK looks to develop its approach for the trustworthy use of health data for research and innovation at scale across the UK.

National Centre of Expertise

The National Centre of Expertise sits inside NHSX and its core functions will oversee the policy framework, provide specialist commercial and legal advice to NHS organisations entering data agreements, develop standard contracts and guidance, and ensure that the advantages of scale in the NHS can deliver benefits for patients and the NHS. 

Accelerating Detection of Disease

The Accelerating Detection of Disease challenge is recruiting a world-leading cohort of up to 5 million participants by 2024 to support research intended to improve the early detection, risk stratification, and early intervention of chronic diseases in individuals, before symptoms present. The cohort aims to collect biological (blood) samples and health related data on all 5 million participants, with plans to collect repeat samples from a subset. By using AI and data, research in early diagnosis can be accelerated, leading to better prevention and treatment of disease.  The pioneering programme is unparalleled – in the UK and globally – in its attempt to tackle the challenge of early diagnosis of major chronic illness in an entire population.  The challenge will develop a major enduring national resource that will support new AI approaches to early diagnosis and biomarker discovery while enabling the development, testing and validation of new diagnostic tools at scale. Funding: £79 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund with an expectation matched funding of £160 million from industry.