Martin Luise, divisional manager of Computer People Executive Search and Selection, said, "The sort of individual that would be required to do this role would need both commercial acumen and political nous. That type of person will be difficult to find. They are looking at [paying] a base salary of at least six figures."
The director general of the NHS IT programme will oversee an additional IT budget rumoured to be about £5bn and will be responsible for overhauling technology in the service, which with more than a million employees, is one of the largest organisations in the world.
An advertisement in last weekend's Sunday Times described the ideal candidate as "the very best available deliverer of large-scale IT programmes in the UK".
The Department of Health (DoH) was unable to reveal the precise nature of the payment package on offer, although officials confirmed that it "is likely to include an unusually high base salary and substantial bonuses based on achievement".
The IT tsar will be responsible for implementing Delivering 21st Century IT Support for the NHS, the long-awaited national NHS IT strategy which was due to be unveiled earlier this week. The job advertisement said its implementation, which is one of largest IT programmes ever seen in the UK, will be a Herculean task.
Key elements of the strategy include upgrading the NHS IT infrastructure and delivery of core applications such as electronic patient records and clinical tools, appointment booking and prescribing.
The latest strategy document follows the recent publication of the Wanless Report, which called on the Government to devote £2.2bn to NHS IT in 2003-4. Current NHS IT spending is £1.1bn.
The health service has a variable IT track record. Derek Wanless, the author of the report published on Budget day, described the UK's "particularly poor record on the use of information technologies in the health service", and reported that the service's annual spend per employee was lower in 2000 than in any other sector of the economy he had looked at.
He said areas such as IT infrastructure, clinical governance support systems and electronic patient records had a crucial role to play in the health service's future.
NHS seeks high-flyer for IT tsar role
Candidates for the role of director general of the NHS IT Programme must:
- Be able to demonstrate an outstanding record of success in managing and implementing very large-scale technology change programmes within large, complex organisations
- Be at the forefront of using the latest advances in technology
- Have experience of working and negotiating with the major technology suppliers at the highest levels and possess the stature needed to command confidence from ministers, senior civil servants and chief executives in the industry
- Display the breadth of vision and leadership ability needed to prepare for and embrace further generations of technological advance.