Top Whitehall 200k IT jobs – hopefuls given only 2 weeks to apply

Whitehall officials have allowed only two weeks for people to apply for two top IT jobs in government – each offering salaries of at least £200,000.

The jobs were advertised on 13 April and the deadlines have passed. Some of those who were interested in the adverts say that two weeks is not enough time to prepare for applications that require comments to be made on a list of difficult questions.

The two jobs are:

Director General, Chief Information Officer, Department of Health, who will have direct responsibility for about 1,700 staff, about 180 of whom are in the Information Services Group and 1,500 are at NHS Connecting for Health

Director of Programme and System Delivery who will report to the CIO and be accountable for managing NHS Connecting for Health, the implementation arm of the National Programme for IT.

The CIO’s total annual budget is £1.65bn.

For the CIO’s job the biggest hurdle is, arguably, a requirement that candidates prove they have board-level experience in an organisation commensurate with size and complexity of this role. How many jobs are there of the size and complexity of Director General of NHS IT?

The NHS employs more than one million people, has an annual budget of £90bn and has an IT programme – the NPfIT – which is so complex some say it’s unachievable.

The list of requirements shows how difficult it is for candidates to prepare a CIO application in two weeks.

They must convince recruitment consultants and the Department of Health of their:

– Vision for informatics, where the achievement of better patient outcomes and ongoing reform is supported by efficient, effective and secure information systems

– Ability to use IT to reduce the burden on, front line staff, ensure managers and policy makers have the timely, relevant and accurate data they require to make important decisions, and provide flexibility to deal with future change and innovation in the way that health care is delivered

– Ability to keep NHS IT secrets, particularly when they’ve left. The department is making candidates aware that they will have to sign the Official Secrets Act which covers every aspect of their work during and after employment. The post is open only to EC nationals, members of the Commonwealth, the European Economic Area (EEA), Swiss nationals and certain non-EEA family members.

– Experience of managing information-led change, married with excellent corporate leadership and policy skill.

The new CIO will also be expected to:

– Manage relationships across government

– Ensure that the Department of Health participates fully in the development of cross government information and technology policy, and that ministers and ministerial teams are “appropriately” briefed

– Ensure (as far as possible) that all decisions are made with due consideration of informatics

– Develop the informatics strategy for social care to support national planning and quality assurance, the integration of services between social care and the NHS, and closer working between social services departments

Chosen candidates will be invited to an interview with Patrick Johnson and Tim Cook from Russell Reynolds Associates in London. Those shortlisted will be asked to meet an occupational psychologist. Final interviews are likely to take place on 24 June.

Indicative Timetable

Advertisement in Sunday Times 13 April

Closing date 28 April

Long list Meeting 6 May

Short List Meeting 4 June

Informal meetings and psychometrics testing 9 and 16 June

Interviews 24 June

Computer Weekly put it to the Department of Health that two weeks for applications to top IT jobs in government seemed to be rushed. We said the apparent rush could imply that it has already chosen someone – which would mean the adverts are only going through the motions.

This was its short reply:

“The DH has employed Russell Reynolds Associates to search for applicants alongside the advert. This search began before the advert was published”.


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