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Simon Bolton named as NHS Digital interim CEO

Following the announcement of Sarah Wilkinson’s departure as CEO of NHS Digital, the organisation has appointed NHS Test and Trace CIO Simon Bolton as interim CEO

NHS Digital has appointed Simon Bolton as interim CEO while it hunts for a permanent replacement following CEO Sarah Wilkinson’s imminent departure.

Bolton, who is currently CIO at NHS Test and Trace, will take on the interim role on 4 June 2021, when Wilkinson is due to depart after four years at the helm of NHS Digital.

Bolton has been the NHS Test and Trace CIO since August 2020, having previously been CIO at Jaguar Land Rover.

Bolton said of his new role: “It is a privilege to join this organisation at such an important stage. The appetite for digitisation within the NHS presents a huge opportunity for all of us working in the health tech sector and my ambition is for NHS Digital to be at the forefront, driving innovation and developing solutions and new capabilities.

“What NHS Digital has achieved during the pandemic has been remarkable and I look forward to working alongside my new colleagues to continue to deliver for patients and the frontline.”

NHS Digital will run an open competition to find a permanent replacement later this year.

Current CEO Wilkinson took on the role in 2017, and has led the organisaton through a challenging time during the Covid-19 pandemic. She also recently emerged as the winner of Computer Weekly’s UKtech50 2021.

Over the past year, several huge projects have been delivered at incredible speed by NHS Digital. When the pandemic first hit and the country faced its first lockdown and wave of Covid-19 cases, the organisation quickly had to scale up its NHS 111 non-emergency helpline and online service.

Read more about NHS Digital

  • After four years at the helm of NHS Digital, CEO Sarah Wilkinson will leave in the summer of 2021, and the organisation is looking for an interim replacement.
  • NHS Digital’s Chris Parsons shares how the organisation managed to migrate more than 2.1 million NHSmail accounts to the cloud during a global pandemic.
  • The UKtech50’s most influential person in UK IT in 2021, NHS Digital CEO Sarah Wilkinson, talks about how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the speed of projects, staff pressures and key leadership lessons.

Another achievement was the risk stratification system that enables the NHS to identify people who are clinically “extremely vulnerable to Covid”, namely the shielded patients list.

As NHS Digital and the rest of the country moves into the pandemic recovery phase, there will be new challenges for the organisation.

NHS Digital board chair Laura Wade-Gery said the organisation was delighted to have Bolton join at “what is a time of tremendous opportunity for us”.

She added: “The organisation has shown what it is capable of during the pandemic. It has stepped up and delivered digital programmes at unprecedented scale and pace which have undoubtedly helped save lives.

“Simon will provide strong leadership for the organisation to maintain this momentum and build on what has been achieved over the last year, supporting and driving forward the wider NHS agenda of simultaneous restoration and transformation of services with digital at its heart.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Sarah for her commitment, her dedication, and her outstanding leadership over the last four years.”

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