Alan Burns, the chief executive of Trent strategic health authority, has stood down as the implementation lead for the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) just six months after being appointed.

He is the latest in a series of senior experienced NHS leaders and clinicians at the top of the programme to have left early and his departure has triggered a shake-up of NHS cluster senior responsible officers for the project.

Burns will be replaced by Richard Jeavons, chief executive of West Yorkshire strategic health authority, and currently the chief current senior responsible officer for the North East cluster. Jeavons will step down from both posts to join the DH as its new director of IT service implementation, leading clinical and management engagement in the NHS IT modernisation programme.

Burns will continue as chief executive of Trent SHA and also take on the role of chief executive of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire SHA after former chief executive Peter Houghton left to take up the post of Director of the National Leadership Network for the NHS.

John Bacon, the DH’s director of delivery and overall SRO for the national IT programme, said: "This full-time appointment[of Jeavons] signals the importance we attach to ensuring the national IT programme is implemented across the NHS".

In addition, Burns is stepping down from his role as senior responsible officer for the eastern cluster of the NPfIT, being replaced by John de Braux chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire SHA.

The latest round of musical chairs means that the NHS is now on its third NPfIT implementation lead in just over a year and has swapped two out of five cluster SROs. 

Burns, was appointed by health minister John Hutton in November 2004 to lead service implementation. The three day-a-week secondment was intended help ensure engagement with NHS clinicians and managers in preparing to deliver and implement the £6.2 billion NHS IT modernisation programme.

The new implementation role was created following the departure of deputy chief medical officer Professor Aidan Halligan as joint senior responsible officer and clinical lead for the programme in September 2004, less than six months after his appointment.

Professor Halligan himself took over the role of clinical lead for the NPfIT from Professor Peter Hutton who resigned in April 2004, citing the need to clarify mechanisms for clinical engagement.