The Department of Health’s interim chief information officer Matthew Swindells is to leave the department to take up a position with consultancy firm Tribal.

The news comes ahead of publication of the Swindells review of NHS Informatics, which was expected to contain criticism of the overall strategic management of information in the NHS.

A former director of clinical services at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospital and head of IT for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Swindells has been leading the DH’s Informatics Review, which a DH spokesperson said will be published “later this spring”.

The spokesperson declined to comment on whether or not the review had been completed.

Swindells had been expected to present key findings as keynote speaker at the Healthcare Computing 2008 show at the end of April.

However, a report in the current issue of the Health Service Journal, suggest that Swindells report has been completed and “is expected to contain strong criticisms of the general informatics programme to date”. EHI contacts indicate publication of the review may be put back until the summer.

Confirming Swindells departure the DH said: "Matthew Swindells will shortly leave the department at the end of his secondment from the NHS to take up an external appointment.”

The move to the consultancy firm has been approved under the rules that govern the acceptance of outside appointments by civil servants.

The department said it was currently “recruiting a Chief Information Officer, at Director General level, who will lead the development and delivery of the overall information strategy for the health and social care system.”

Mik Horswell UK spokesperson for UKCHIP and ASSIST said: “ASSIST and UKCHIP are very disappointed to hear the news that Matthew Swindells is moving on from the role of acting CIO having completed the informatics review he was originally commissioned to undertake. From our involvement through input to elements of the review and from a growing relationship with Matthew, we were optimistic about a future with him as CIO in the NHS."

He added: "Because of his personal knowledge and skills in this area, he is clearly a strong advocate of the importance of Health Informatics and of informaticians throughout the NHS and a keen supporter of the development of that profession. We look forward to reading the review when published and to working with whoever is appointed to this vital leadership role."

One industry source said that Swindells had been “very sensible” and “would be missed”. They speculated that reasons for his departure might include failing to win support from the DH for his review’s more critical conclusions, or being passed over by the DH for the CIO position.

Swindells’ decision follows the news that Richard Jeavons, director of IT implementation at NHS Connecting for Health, will leave to become chief executive of the independent reconfiguration panel.

He took the interim role with the DH after former director general of NHS IT, Richard Granger, left the department at the end of January.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson said: “He has done a great job. He will be missed for the energy and enthusiasm he has brought to the programme and his significant contribution to its development, in particular his strong focus on the needs of staff and patients.”

A British Computer Society (BCS) spokesperson said the BCS Health Informatics Forum will meet later this week to decide if the news affects the Healthcare Computing 2008 conference programme