The Department of Health has signalled that it wants to see information management and technology represented at the highest levels in the new NHS strategic health authorities (SHAs).

Director of research, analysis and information, Sir John Pattison, told the NHS Information Authority’s annual conference that health minister Lord Hunt was “very keen to establish IM&T leads at board level.”

Sir John described the role of the 28 new SHAs as pivotal in the performance management of primary care and hospital trusts.

“We have to keep some of our best IM&T performance managers,” he said.

Delivering the opening keynote speech in place of Lord Hunt, Sir John delivered a wide ranging view of key issues on the healthcare information agenda, but the consensus outside the conference hall was that the government was saving its big announcements on IT for its 6 December conference.

Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, is due to address the invitation-only audience of NHS chief executives along with health secretary, Alan Milburn.