NHS England names former Cambridge NHS trust boss as chief clinical information officer

NHS England has created three new information and technology leadership roles, with the top position going to the former boss of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge who resigned as the trust faced major financial difficulties.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, where Keith McNeil was chief executive – Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Keith McNeil, who was chief executive of Addenbrooke’s and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for three years, resigned in September 2015 amid criticism of his management, after it was revealed the trust was spending £1.2 million a week more than it earned.

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Announcing McNeil’s appointment as NHS chief clinical information officer, IT expert Bob Watcher – who is leading a review into the use of IT in healthcare – said McNeil “has shown he understands both why transformation is necessary, and how to make it happen”.

Watcher added: “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.”

Watcher’s review, which was originally due to report in June, will say that it is necessary for the NHS to appoint more than just a single chief information and technology officer.

As such, NHS England has also appointed Will Smart – currently chief information officer at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust – as NHS chief information officer.

The aim is to create a distinction between the IT expertise of Smart, who has worked in IT in both the NHS and private sector, and McNeil’s background as a medical leader.

McNeil and Smart will chair the National Information Board and act as commissioners for the relevant programmes being delivered by NHS Digital – previously the Health and Social Care Information Centre. They will be accountable to NHS Improvement, and report to the national director of operations and information at NHS England, Matthew Swindells.

The final position is of director of digital experience at NHS England, which has gone to Juliet Bauer. She has previously led the move to take The Times newspaper online and will be responsible for overseeing the development and adoption of digital technology for patients.

In addition, she will oversee the transformation of the NHS Choices website, which the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s recent assessment of major government projects rated as being unlikely to succeed without significant work.

Commenting on the appointments, 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.”

The changes come just days after the announcement that NHS England had abandoned its controversial care.data programme and the news that the Department of Health is reshuffling its directorates to merge technology, digital, local government and social care.


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