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NHS on the hunt for chief data officer

The NHS CDO will report directly to NHS Digital CEO Sarah Wilkinson, get paid up to £176,750 and be responsible for a budget of around £57m

NHS Digital is recruiting for a chief data officer (CDO) who will develop and implement a data strategy for the NHS and champion data quality improvement.

The role, which will pay up to £176,750, will report directly to NHS Digital CEO Sarah Wilkinson and be accountable for building a “world class data, insight and statistics directorate” for the NHS.

The CDO will have a budget of around £57m and be responsible for developing and implementing a strategy to “address existing, emerging and future demands for integrated data, insight and statistics”, according to the candidate pack.

This includes the data requirement for population-based operating models and the recommendations made by national data guardian for health and care Fiona Caldicott.

“Data is a hugely valuable asset for the NHS, and as the health and care system struggles to cater for a population that is living longer, experiencing multiple chronic conditions and facing a dramatic growth in certain specific complex conditions such as dementia, we need to find ways to retain the value that arises when this data is made available to third parties,” the document said, adding that the CDO will work closely with the NHS chief commercial officer to create value-retention models.

The new CDO will also have to work hard to build trust among the public when it comes to data sharing. The NHS has struggled with gaining the public’s trust when it comes to data, following the scandal, where the programme was being pushed through without explaining the implications for highly sensitive patient records, eventually leading to it being scrapped. It recently launched an opt-out tool, making it easier for patients to opt out of having their details shared.

However, earlier this month, the NHS came under fire again, when it emerged it had inadvertently shared the confidential data of 150,000 patients over a three-year period due to a coding error in TPP’s GP IT system, SystmOne.

Balancing public concern with benefits of data sharing

The job advert said balancing the concerns of the public with the important benefits of data sharing is “hugely complex” and getting the balance wrong will result in a loss of trust in the NHS’s ability to keep data safe.

“Personal health data is extremely sensitive, and its handling is rightly subject to extensive data protection and privacy legislation and Health and Social Care Acts.

“There are profound benefits from enabling patient data to be used for research and management of both individual care and the NHS system,” the document said, adding that a key responsibility will be to “build trust and confidence with citizens, the health and care system and regulators in the way we collect, process and share data”.

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The CDO will also be responsible for leading development on the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning in collecting, linking and analysing data, as well as being involved in the genomics programme.

“There can be few roles more exciting than CDO of the NHS in 2018. We are looking for an extraordinary individual, as befits the incredible potential of the role,” the job ad said.

“The role is demanding in terms of technical skill, legal and regulatory competence, commercial savvy and delivery of robust and efficient service delivery, but offers the potential to have a completely transformative effect on the delivery of health and care in the UK, with international influence.” 

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