Britain’s former ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould has been appointed to lead the forthcoming NHS digital revolution.
The well-liked diplomat was Britain’s man in Tel Aviv from 2010-15, during which time he built bilateral bridges in the field of science and technology.
Since 2015 he has been director of cyber security and information assurance at the Cabinet Office but on Thursday he was announced as the new chief executive of NHSX, a Government unit charged with setting national policy and developing best practice for NHS technology, digital and data.
The unit’s duties include sharing NHS data, which is seen as an incredibly valuable resource by health and technology companies around the world, who are queuing up for access to the national data-set.
This is because the UK has kept centralised and reliable records of the health interventions of all its citizens for decades, together with records of the effects of that intervention. Companies designing new drugs, treatments, diagnostics and processes are desperate for this know-how in order to build better products.
Gould has long championed technological cooperation between British and Israeli companies, forming the UK Israel Tech Hub from the British Embassy, which matches bigger British companies with Israeli start-ups.
He also kick-started the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX) together with the British Council, and this initiative has so far led to millions of pounds on bilateral research in which scientists from both countries work together in fields such as regenerative medicine.
Announcing his appointment, Health Secretary Matt Hancock heralded Gould as “brilliant,” adding: “Matthew has a wealth of experience in managing large digital projects and I am delighted to have him on board.”
Gould said the goal was to get staff and patients the technology they need, adding that he would aim to cut the “crazy” amount of time clinicians spend inputting and accessing patient information.
He also said he would give patients the ability to access information and services directly from their phones, and “build a system in which patient information can be securely accessed from wherever it is needed”.
Huge technology firms such as Apple and Google are spending billions investing in both health information access tools and AI algorithms to diagnose disease from scans and samples faster and more efficiently than doctors do at present.