NHSIA appoints new chief

The first day of the Healthcare Computing 2002 conference opened with the announcement that Gwyn Thomas has been appointed chief...

The first day of the Healthcare Computing 2002 conference opened with the announcement that Gwyn Thomas has been appointed chief executive of the NHS Information Authority (NHSIA).

Thomas has been acting head of the NHSIA since the abrupt departure of Nigel Bell from the position in September 2001.

Bell, who now works for the Office of the E-Envoy, told Computer Weekly that he wished his successor and former deputy every success in the new post. "I am delighted that he applied and was successful," he said.

Thomas said one of his top priorities will be to speed up the implementation of key programmes such as electronic patient records. "The challenge we now face is not only to do what is expected of us but also to do it faster, without compromising quality," he said

With the sudden withdrawal of keynote speaker health minister Lord Hunt from the conference, delegates expecting to hear news of new money or initiatives to aid them with the complex NHS IT agenda got short shrift.

Richard Gibbs, chief executive of Kingston and Richmond Health Authority and chairman of the NHS chief executives' forum, warned that money is likely to be as tight as last year because NHS IT budgets are being raided to fund services.

"We suffered the dreadful Saff [Strategic and Financial Framework] round last year, when the money for IT investment was raided. This year's Saff round doesn't promise to be much better," he said.

Gibbs told delegates to expect the NHS to develop a more corporate approach to IT this year, taking advantage of its size and purchasing clout to buy IT more effectively and develop common infrastructure.

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