The Department of Health has advertised for an NHS chief information officer. Headhunters have been recruited and interviews will take place in a couple of months.
Matthew Swindells, acting NHS CIO, told the HC2008 annual healthcare IT conference at Harrogate: “This is an absolutely crucial position, linking the policy to the strategy, to the informatics. If we can drive that from the top then other things become a lot easier for everybody.”
Meanwhile the Department of Health has appointed its latest interim head of IT in the NHS, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director. He has been appointed interim Director General for Informatics. His temporary appointment follows the resignation of Swindells who is joining consultancy Tribal.
Keogh has helped Swindells in his Informatics Review which looks at, among other things, the future of the National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. The Swindells report was due to be published in April but has been delayed until late June or July to coincide with a report by Lord Darzi on the future of the NHS . Keogh has worked on both reviews.
Keogh said: “As the first NHS Medical Director, my clear priorities are to drive improvements in clinical quality and safety in the services we provide for our patients. It is absolutely clear to me that this can only be achieved by accelerating the development and uptake of reliable, local and national information systems which will make the jobs of manager and clinicians easier and enable them to focus on improving clinical quality.”
The Department of Health says that Gordon Hextall, who’s Chief Operating Officer at NHS Connecting for Health, which runs part of the NPfIT, is now “interim Director of Informatics”, adding this to his role as interim Director of Programme and System Delivery.
The three-day HC2008 conference is organised by the Health Informatics Forum of the British Computer Society.
In the past few months, senior health IT executives have seemed to stay in post little longer than machine-gunners who were assigned to the trenches in the First World War. It’s not because of the person but the programme.
Is it becoming so labyrinthine as to be unmanageable? The NPfIT needs a robustly independent review. It should be carried out by those who have no association with the NHS, an idea which ministers find abhorrent.
One of the greatest achievements of Gwyneth Dunwoody, the late, exemplary chair of the House of Commons’ Transport Committee, was that she and her committee harassed the government to hold an independent review of the much-delayed Swanwick air traffic control system. The result was a report by Arthur D Little, a consultancy which was appointed by open competitive tender.
Arthur D Little’s was the most robustly independent report we have seen on any government IT project. And this is what the NPfIT needs. It has needed it for years. Until the government has an independent report, the NPfIT will, we believe, continue to struggle like a pilot who’s getting conflicting readings from his key instruments. Which is a pity because the programme will continue to soak up billions of pounds while the country continues to wait for paper records to be replaced by dependable electronic ones – which nobody denies is in the interests of patients.