Matthew Swindells, who has been leading a review of NHS informatics including the £12.4bn National Programme for IT[NPfIT], has resigned and is to leave the Department of Health “shortly”. He has played a key role in leading NHS IT since the departure of Richard Granger in January 2008.
News of his departure comes only weeks after Computer Weekly revealed that Richard Jeavons is leaving the NPfIT as its much-respected senior responsible owner for service implementation.
Their resignations are a blow to the credibility of the NPfIT which is now left without strong independent voices. Some will see the departures as indicating that the programme is now in trouble.
Swindells is moving to the private sector, to a consultancy Tribal.
His review of NHS IT, which has yet to be published, is likely to include some criticisms of the NPfIT as it stands.
As interim NHS CIO Swindells was due to be the opening speaker at HC2008, the annual healthcare computing conference at Harrogate, where he was expected to talk on the strategic role of information in the future of the NHS.
Swindells and Jeavons are seen as independently-minded executives who are not noted among colleagues for using statistics to promote past achievements of the NPfIT, though both support the scheme.
In January, at an NHS CIO Summit at the UK headquarters of Microsoft in Reading, Swindells spoke of the need to move from “monolithic providers of services to many providers that are more patient centric”. However the NPfIT was founded on the principle of NHS trusts in England being supplied by a small number of large IT service providers.
With some NHS trusts buying hospital systems outside of the NPfIT because of delays in the supply national systems there is pressure on the Department of Health to allow hospital executives to buy what they want provided it meets national standards.
Swindells has argued for plurality and against what he called 19th-century capitalism or 20th-century nationalisation.
He told the NHS CIO summit that the NHS IT programme was under review. He said this was to make sure its vision was still relevant and deliverable and that it would meet the requirements of the modern NHS and a review of the NHS by Lord Darzi.
But he told the audience there was no point in saying ‘I would not start from here’ or ‘we need to build on the best of what we have’. He said there was a need to align new policy announcements and IT requirements more closely, and to “make sure that the role of the centre and local organisations is correct”.
PS. Executives at the British Computer Society said on Thursday [10 April 2008] that Matthew Swindells is still due to be the opening keynote speaker at HC2008.
Swindells’ biography (from HC2008 website):
He is a member the NHS Management Board and the Interim Chief Information Officer for the NHS and the Department of Health. The creation of the role of CIO was an early recommendation from the wide-ranging Informatics Review that he has been leading, the final report of which is due to be published this summer, to coincide with the result of Lord Darzi’s “Next Stage Review.”
Before joining the NHS Management Board, Swindells spent a year as Senior Policy Adviser to Patricia Hewitt MP, when she was Secretary of State for Health.
He joined the NHS as a Graduate Supplies Trainee in the North Western Regional Health Authority in 1987. His roles since have included:
-Chief Executive of the Royal Surrey County Hospital, a district general hospital and cancer centre just outside London.
– Director of Clinical Services at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital in Slough.
Head of IT for Guy’s and St Thomas’
He has a degree in Economics, an MBA from Brunel University and is a Visiting Professor and a member of the Advisory Board at Surrey University School of Management.