What we learnt about the new NHS Development Standards 

What we learnt from the East Midlands AHSN meeting on the new NHS Development Standards 


Operating in the NHS has its positives, such as delivering work that has a huge impact on the wellbeing of the community, as well as its obvious challenges. Perhaps one of the greatest digital challenges of our time is the transformation of healthcare delivery to unlock operational efficiencies but more importantly improve clinical outcomes. 


Amidst a number of products being delivered into the NHS, we regularly engage the regional AHSN’s to keep up to date with the activity of NHSX. Updates on the digital agenda and frameworks often drive the ability to scale solutions and on the latest meet. 


In this session, we heard from Mike Watson after NHSX released the beta of the digital technology assessment criteria which outlays key standards that software engineers or SaaS solutions need to consider when building NHS software. The intention is to validate digital health technologies across for use by the NHS, social care or directly by citizens to allow for quick release and/or scalability of solutions.


These standards will replace the Digital Assessment Questionnaire and the Digital Assessment Portal and be a national baseline whereby local procurement can add specific layers on.


Here is an overview of the beta Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC):


Clinical safety 

The product must have clinical safety measures as a foundation of the product introduction. This requires liaison with a clinician or relative healthcare lead to ensuring that a clinical risk assessment has been carried out with risk management put into place.


Data Protection

Data protection and privacy are ingrained in every step of product development by design. The rights of individuals are naturally protected.


Technical assurance 

Development is completed to the highest possible standard, with products being secure and stable.



Integration, or data communication, is accurate and quick whilst operating to the highest levels of security and safety 


Usability & accessibility 

Accessibility standards are considered and any assessment will be benchmarked against general good practice. There may be recommendations given by NHSX as to areas for improvement. 



Our thoughts


The standards may not seem revolutionary, but we see it as a positive step that there is a central framework for assessing digital technologies being launched into the NHS. With NHSX validating products, we foresee there being a more centralised approach to innovation, with better communication and oversight on individual activities that may benefit other trusts.


However, there are still questions around what format the validation process will take and whether NHSX centrally has the infrastructure to commit to this on a scale needed. It also leaves question marks around how opportunities that may not be able to be assessed under these criteria, such as emerging technologies, will be guided by NHSX.


Nonetheless, we welcome the DTCA and look forward to hearing feedback on the beta assessments in the coming months, with February seeing iterations of the criteria and the advisory board launch.


For more information on these criteria please see the NHS website: https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/key-tools-and-info/designing-and-building-products-and-services/