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Today NHS England and NHS Improvement announce three key appointments to help transform how the NHS uses technology and information.
The creation of these roles reflects recommendations in the forthcoming review on the future of NHS information systems by Dr Bob Wachter. Rather than appoint a single chief information and technology officer, consistent with the Wachter review the NHS is appointing a senior medical leader as NHS Chief Clinical Information Officer (NHS CCIO) supported by an experienced health IT professional as NHS Chief Information Officer (NHS CIO).
The first NHS Chief Clinical Information Officer will be Professor Keith McNeil, a former transplant specialist who has also held many senior roles in healthcare management around the world, including Chief Executive Officer at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Chief Executive Officer at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Australia.
The new NHS Chief Information Officer will be Will Smart, currently Chief Information Officer at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Mr Smart has had an extensive career in IT across the NHS and in the private sector.
The NHS CCIO and NHS CIO post-holders will act on behalf of the whole NHS to provide strategic leadership, also chairing the National Information Board, and acting as commissioning ‘client’ for the relevant programmes being delivered by NHS Digital (previously known as the Health and Social Care Information Centre). The roles will be based at NHS England and will report to Matthew Swindells, National Director: Operations and Information, but the post-holders will also be accountable to NHS Improvement, with responsibility for its technology work with NHS providers.
In addition, Juliet Bauer has been appointed as Director of Digital Experience at NHS England. She will oversee the transformation of the NHS Choices website and the development and adoption of digital technology for patient ‘supported self-management’, including for people living with long term conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Ms Bauer has led delivery of similar technology programmes in many sectors, including leading the move to take Times Newspapers online.
Commenting on his appointment, Professor Keith McNeil said: “Introducing and embedding new technology takes time, and is always challenging. This is particularly so in hospitals and healthcare, however the rewards are great – getting it right transforms the way we care for patients, improves patient outcomes and saves time and money for the NHS. It was not easy implementing the electronic health record at Addenbrooke’s, but a year and a half on, the lessons for the future are clear and the benefits are there for all to see. I know as a doctor, that my colleagues would not want to return to a paper-based system.”
Welcoming Professor McNeil’s appointment, Dr Bob Wachter said: “As a clinician with a track record in technology, Keith McNeil has shown he understands both why transformation is necessary, and how to make it happen. He ‘gets’ the necessity of clinical engagement, and the real world complexities of technology adoption. The journey may not always be smooth, but the electronic record system at Addenbrooke’s is now one of the best in the NHS, a real example of how technology can improve outcomes for patients. I was particularly taken by Addenbrooke’s emphasis on the importance of the human-technology interface – getting this right is absolutely critical to achieving technology’s full potential.”
Matthew Swindells, National Director: Operations and Information at NHS England, said: “This exceptional team should ensure we drive forward our national IT strategy but remain focused on delivering better outcomes for the patients we serve, and improved efficiency in how we deliver that care. In the future we will not talk about ‘IT projects’, only ‘patient improvements supported by information and technology’ and these new appointments will give the NHS the shared leadership to make that happen.”
Noel Gordon, chair of NHS Digital, said: “The arrival of three outstanding technology and change experts to the NHS executive team reinforces our collective commitment to delivering the technology promise behind the Five Year Forward View and the start of a new partnership with NHS Digital. I welcome these three appointments and the platform they give to increasing the integration of our leadership agenda in delivering the outcomes we all want for patients.”