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NHS England hires internally to fill CIO role

The merger of NHS England and NHS Digital resulted in job losses, which meant the new organisation needed to fill the role of IT chief

The search for a new CIO to oversee digital technology at NHS England is now over. The NHS in England has been in search of a new CIO following the announcement that it would be merging with NHS Digital, which saw the then CIO Simon Bolton leaving the organisation, citing “personal reasons” in a tweet.

Interim CIO John Quinn has now been offered the role following what NHS England describes as “a rigorous recruitment process”.

It is believed that executive search agency GatenbySanderson had been used to help field suitable candidates, but eventually NHS England hired internally. Quinn had been filling the NHS England’s CIO role on a temporary basis since February.

In his new role, Quinn will take over responsibilities for running and evolving the NHS’s critical technical infrastructure and managing cyber security for national services.

Quinn previously worked as executive director of IT operations and enterprise services at NHS Digital and spent eight years in leadership roles at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

He began working at the MHRA in February 2014 as its CIO and senior information risk officer (SIRO) and was promoted to chief digital and information officer in April 2018, where he headed up the digital transformation team at MHRA. In 2020, during the pandemic, Quinn took on the role of executive director for technology, digital data and delivery.

Prior to joining the agency, he was head of business solutions at the Department for Education (DfE) until January 2014, where he was responsible for delivering the IT strategy, and was the department’s chief knowledge officer (CKO).

Tim Ferris, national director of transformation at NHS England, said: “John has led significant digital transformations throughout his career, and so brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the role of chief information officer. I’ve found John’s measured, insightful and outcomes-oriented approach to problem solving invaluable since he joined NHS England.”

Among the many challenges facing Quinn in his new role is the 40% reduction in headcount that took place following the merger of NHS England with NHS Digital. According to the annual report filing from NHS England for 2021/22, this amounts to 30 job losses.

Quinn is also likely to be involved in a major NHS data platform initiative. NHS England is currently embarking on a competitive procurement, inviting suppliers to bid to replace the Covid-19 Datastore, provided by Palantir, with a new SaaS platform to enable the use and sharing of data in a safe and secure environment.

Read more NHS England stories

  • NHS England has invited suppliers to tender for a data platform that will supersede the Covid-19 data store controversial for the involvement of data analytics firm Palantir.
  • The NHS is deploying an AI-based demand forecasting tool to accurately predict activity levels and free up staff, space and resources to tackle post-pandemic treatment backlogs.

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