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NHS England appoints three senior IT leaders

Chief clinical information officer, CIO and director of digital experience hired to replace role of chief information and technology officer

NHS England has appointed three senior healthcare IT leaders to drive digital transformation across the health service.

Keith McNeil, former CEO of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where he led the implementation of an e-hospital programme, has been appointed chief clinical information officer (CCIO).

Will Smart, currently CIO at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, will become CIO for NHS England.

And Julie Bauer, who led Times Newspapers’ transition to online, has been appointed director of digital experience – a role for which NHS England began recruiting last month. She will be responsible for the NHS Choices website and will drive the “NHS digital product roadmap”.

NHS England has been trying to recruit a chief information and technology officer (CI&TO) since Tim Kelsey, former national director of patients and information, moved to Australia last December.

But the organisation has struggled to find a suitable replacement, and in line with Robert Wachter’s upcoming review of the NHS’s digital future, NHS England has decided to hire a team of digital leaders instead of just one.  

“The roles will be based at NHS England and will report to Matthew Swindells, national director: operations and information, but the post-holders will also be accountable to NHS Improvement, with responsibility for its technology work with NHS providers,” NHS England said in a statement.

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The CCIO and CIO will jointly chair the National Information Board and act as “commissioning client for the relevant programmes being delivered by NHS Digital” – the new name of the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Commenting on the appointments, Swindells said the team should “ensure we drive forward our national IT strategy, but remain focused on delivering better outcomes for the patients we serve, and improved efficiency in how we deliver that care”.

He added: “In the future, we will not talk about ‘IT projects’, only ‘patient improvements supported by information and technology’ and these new appointments will give the NHS the shared leadership to make that happen.”

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