Management > CIO

NHS CCIO appointed under wider technology executive overhaul

Neil Merrett Published 08 July 2016

Professor Keith McNeil, Will Smart and Juliet Bauer will take up the roles of NHS CCIO, CIO and director of digital experience respectively


NHS England has unveiled three key senior appointments that will help lead key national technology initiatives in the latest of a series of significant shake-ups for UK healthcare delivery this week.

Building on several recommendations from the upcoming release of a review into NHS computer systems by Dr Bob Wachter, Professor Keith McNeil - formerly chief executive of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - has been unveiled as the first ever chief clinical Information Office (CCIO) for UK healthcare.

Alongside the appointment, the organisation announced that Will Smart from the Royal Free London NHS Foundation trust will serve as the NHS' chief information officer (CIO).

"Rather than appoint a single chief information and technology officer, consistent with the Wachter review, the NHS is appointing a senior medical leader as NHS CCIO supported by an experienced health IT professional as NHS CIO," said NHS England in a statement.

Meanwhile, Juliet Bauer will take up the post of director of digital experience at NHS England that will see her oversee aims to transform the NHS Choices website and introduce more self-serve, consumer facing technology solutions.

NHS England expects the CCIO and CIO to provide strategic leadership across the organisation that will include chairing the National Information Board (NIB), while serving as commissioning client for programmes delivered by the soon to be rebranded Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

"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," said the statement.

All three appointees have strong backgrounds working in technology, with McNeil having served as chief executive with one of the NHS's largest and renowned care bodies as it undertook the long-term 'eHospital' programme that sought to overhaul data use through a project with Epic and HP.

He stood down in September, a week before the Care Quality Commission recommended Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust was put in 'special measures' after receiving an "Inadequate" rating.

It is understood that CQC's decision to put CUH into special measures at the time was no direct reflection on the trust's progress with the ongoing eHospital project.

Reflecting on his new role as CCIO, Professor McNeil noted that the introduction of new technology always took time and present challenges, particularly regarding healthcare and hospitals.

However, he argued that the potential rewards were great in terms of improving patient outcomes and cost efficiency.

"It was not easy implementing the electronic health record at Addenbrooke's, but a year and a half on, the lessons for the future are clear and the benefits are there for all to see. I know as a doctor, that my colleagues would not want to return to a paper-based system," added McNeil.

Dr Bob Wachter - charged by the Department of Health to review and recommend improvements around how the NHS implements and uses digital systems - said McNeil as CCIO understood why transformation was necessary and how to make it happen.

"He 'gets' the necessity of clinical engagement, and the real world complexities of technology adoption. The journey may not always be smooth, but the electronic record system at Addenbrooke's is now one of the best in the NHS, a real example of how technology can improve outcomes for patients," Wachter said.

"I was particularly taken by Addenbrooke's emphasis on the importance of the human-technology interface - getting this right is absolutely critical to achieving technology's full potential."

Noel Gordon, chair of NHS Digital - the rebranded name for HSCIC from next month - said all three appointments would provide technology and change expertise to the NHS executive team to support the key aims of the Five Year Forward View strategy looking at demand and funding efficiency.

"I welcome these three appointments and the platform they give to increasing the integration of our leadership agenda in delivering the outcomes we all want for patients."

Service interoperability and the closer integration of health and social care are among some of the key focuses outlined in NHS England's 'Five Year Forward View' plan as well as the Personalised Health and Care strategy, which are designed to try and address funding pressures.

Earlier this week, NHS England announced it was terminating its long delayed programme on the back of a wider review by National Data Guardian Dame Fiona Caldicott of how patient information is shared and protected across UK healthcare.

Dame Caldicott had recommended the government consider a review of the programme, which is designed to make use of anonymised patient data extracted from GP or hospital medical records, after setting out a new model that goes further than measures set out for the planned pilots intended to trial

Her review was released alongside findings from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) setting out guidelines for UK health and social care providers to better protect systems against data breaches or loss of confidential patient information.

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