NHS Digital boss Andy Williams resigns

Written by Rebecca Hill on 16 November 2016 in News

The chief executive of the body helping drive forward the NHS’s digital transformation is to step down in March 2017, after three years at the helm.

Andy Williams will have spent three years leading NHS Digital when he retires - Photo credit: NHS Digital

Announcing his retirement today, Andy Williams said that it had been a “very difficult decision” but that he was “confident that NHS Digital will successfully deliver the personalised health and care agenda”.

The body, which is responsible for NHS data, IT systems and information standards and was formerly known as the Health and Social Care Information Centre, has faced a bumpy road since its creation in 2013.

From the outset, the team had to work under the shadow of the failed multi-billion-pound National Programme for Information Technology, which was meant to develop national infrastructure and electronic systems for patients but was shut down in 2011.

More recently, the government this year cancelled its controversial patient data sharing programme care.data – widely judged to have failed because of poor patient engagement and lack of clarity on how people could opt out.

The body has also come under first from MPs, with a recent report from the House of Commons Health Committee saying that data linkage policies were causing problems for local area public health teams.

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However, the organisation has tried to use its name change to reinvent itself and emphasise to the public that it is part of the NHS family, with a revamped website and a focus on digital transformation of the NHS.

Meanwhile, the government has adopted a number of measures for digital transformation in the NHS, such as increased digital training for staff, and the National Information Board has set out 33 programmes that the NHS’s digital work will focus on.

NHS Digital chairman Noel Gordon praised Williams’ work during his time in charge of the body, saying that it had “made huge strides” and that it was “stronger, more confident and better equipped to tackle the digital agenda to 2020”.

Williams said: “We now have a strong portfolio of programmes at national and local level that will play their part in helping to change the way health and care is delivered for the benefit of patients and clinicians.”

The outgoing chief thanked his team, saying that he had enjoyed his time “enormously” and would make sure he did everything he could to ensure the body was in “good shape” for his successor.

Recruitment for a replacement for Williams, who previously held a number of industry roles, including at IBM and the Computer Science Corporation, will begin soon.

NHS Digital said it expected to have a successor in place before Williams left, but if the process took longer chief operating officer Rob Shaw will act as interim chief executive from April 2017.

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