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Imperial College, University of Edinburgh and Harvard to run NHS Digital Academy

Consortium comprising Imperial College, Harvard University and the University of Edinburgh has been chosen to run three-year, £6m virtual academy aimed at upskilling CIOs and CCIOs

NHS England has selected a consortium of three universities to lead the programme to drive digital skills and innovation in the NHS.

The NHS Digital Academy, a virtual training programme, will be run by Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, together with Harvard Medical School and the University of Edinburgh.  

The three-year, £6m programme is intended to train up to 300 CIOs and chief clinical information officers (CCIOs) to drive health and care transformation.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “If the NHS is going to have world-class IT systems, we need a major programme to spread global best practice – and this links three of the best universities in the world to do just that.

“The academy will ensure the next generation of NHS leaders is well equipped with the most exciting innovations that deliver the best care available to patients everywhere.”

The initiative follows US professor Robert Wachter’s review of the NHS’s digital future, published in 2016, in which he said he was concerned at the lack of clinicians with informatics training.

The report recommended that every NHS trust should appoint a CCIO with “appropriate organisational and budgetary authority”. It said an average-sized trust should have at least five “well-qualified clinicians with advanced informatics training”.

The academy will be run as a 12-month, part-time programme, with a new cohort of 50 delegates joining every six months. Its key focuses include the essentials of health informatics, usable health systems design, leadership, implementation, use of data and clinical decision support.

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Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust CIO Rachel Dunscombe, who will be the academy’s CEO, described the virtual training programme as “an amazing opportunity for us to act as a catalyst for the CIOs and CCIOs, equipping them with the skills and leadership to safely digitise the NHS”.

Dunscombe added: “This unique collaboration of partners will provide the system leadership needs highlighted by the Wachter review.”

The academy, which plans to seek accreditation from the Federation of Informatics Professionals and the Faculty of Clinical Informatics, will open for applications in September.

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