Granger’s successor remains a mystery

  • 5 September 2007

Richard Granger’s successor as chief executive of Connecting for Health and director general of IT at the Department of Health is still unknown, twelve weeks after he announced his resignation in transition from the post. 

Enquiries from E-Health Insider this week have been unable to clarify when Granger will officially leave CfH, and more intriguingly when, and if, a successor will be appointed.

With power and responsibility for delivering CfH now to be handed over to strategic health authorities under the NPfIT Local Ownership Programme (NLOP) the role of CfH is likely to become constrained.

Some industry sources have lamented his departure saying that without a similarly strong figure to drive the NHS IT programme it risks stalling. Others argue that the last thing that NHS and health IT industry need is another leader of conviction, calling for quiet pragmatism.

"We have no name for a successor for Granger at present. An announcement will be made to the press as soon as we have," a DH spokesperson told EHI. They were also unable to give a departure date and declined to comment on a BMJ report which suggested he would leave in October.

In a statement the DH said: "Richard has announced that he will leave his post in autumn this year. An announcement regarding the identification of a successor andtransitional arrangements will be made in due course." Autumn officially ends on 21 December.

Sources within and close to CfH suggest that the director general has in recent weeks become an infrequent visitor to the organisation’s Leeds HQ. Others however say he is still actively involved but on strict instructions to maintain a low profile.

Granger announced his decision to leave his job in June saying he had fulfilled the job for five years as he said he would in 2002.

A variety of industry sources have told EHI that in their view Granger’s sudden announcement of his intention to leave "was not a planned succession". Speculation has focused on the mixed record of CfH, as set out in this year’s damning public accounts committee report; and Granger’s propensity to attract and generate controversy; together with the reduced role of the organisation as the programme is recast and the National Programme for IT Local Ownership Programme (NLOP) begins to gather momentum.

Since announcing his departure, Granger has maintained a low profile. His last known press interview appeared in the July issue CIO magazine in July, in which he said he was ashamed by some of the systems installed to date.  Part two of the interview has yet to be run. 

Granger was appointed as director-general for IT in the NHS CfH on 5 September, 2002 and will complete his fifth year in the job this month.

At the time of his resignation Lord Hunt, the then health minister, said: "Richard will continue to lead Connecting for Health during the transition period, which we expect to be the late part of the year, and his decision will not affect the delivery of the NHS IT programme."

The matter of Granger’s succession was raised in the House of Commons as far back as 24 July when Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, asked health secretary Alan Johnson: "With the departure, shortly, of Richard Granger, who has done such a splendid job on behalf of the NHS, will my right honourable friend ensure that his replacement is of that calibre and that there is no shift in the Government’s drive to improve health IT systems?"

The health secretary replied: "I shall meet Richard Granger just before his departure. My honourable friend refers to an important area, where, as he says, we can extend patient choice and use new technology for the greater convenience of patients, citizens and clinicians, which is why it is important that we get the right person to replace Richard.

According to the website of the World of Health IT conference and exhibition, Granger is still scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the event held in Vienna between 22-25 October. 

His latest known engagement is to speak in his capacity as director general of NHS IT at the National Outsourcing Association’s annual outsourcing summit at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London between 19 and 20 November.

The Health Select Committee will release its report into the electronic patient record next week and it will be interesting to see who the inevitable response from Connecting for Health will be attributed to.

On possible pointer to the future is the fact that recent official responses from CfH have been coming from NHS veteran Richard Jeavons, the current director of service implementation.

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