The CCIO Leaders Network has released a Vision and 12-point plan for chief clinical information officers, to improve the quality of clinical information across the NHS.

The plan calls for the appointment of a senior responsible clinician for information in a wide range of organisations, and argues that this is a vital step for establishing a robust ‘post-Francis’ regulatory regime.

Robert Francis QC’s second report on the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, released last year, called for more transparency in the health service and the government response has made ‘fiddling’ health data a crime

The CCIO Leaders Network plan sets out the steps that the Secretary of State for Health, NHS England, the Care Quality Commission, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and others need to take to avoid clinical data problems.

It says the CQC should include information quality measures in its inspection criteria and urges NICE to produce a cross-cutting quality standard on clinical information and establish core standards and metrics for the collection and use of information.

NHS England is called on to integrate these into the standard contract for NHS services.

The plan says it should become mandatory for all NHS providers to report on the quality of their data and all accounts should be signed-off by a CCIO, or equivalent senior clinician, with specific responsibility for clinical information.

Dr Joe McDonald, consultant psychiatrist, chair of the CCIO Leaders Network and lead author of the Vision and 12-point plan, stressed the importance of clinical leadership in ensuring data quality.

"Either 2014 is the year when Francis2 begins to drive a quantum leap in the quality of NHS care, or 2014 is the year that sees Francis2 become just another report. The appointment of a CCIO in every organisation is a pre-requisite of the quality improvement revolution we need."

Dr McDonald said CCIOs also have a vital role in ensuring the hard-won lessons about how to successfully implement clinical information systems are applied.

“Information is a clinical tool and should be treated as such. We need to ensure that people with the right skills are in a position to lead on clinical information and to maximise the benefit for patients,” he said.

“This means ensuring that senior clinicians have oversight of information policy and implementation, as well as oversight of the systems used to collect the information which will be the cornerstone of modern care.”

Director of the Royal College of Physicians’ Health Informatics Unit, Professor John Williams, welcomed the plan.

“The importance of clinical leadership in transforming the information landscape of the NHS cannot be overemphasised,” he said.

“This document sets out a bold vision for the future, and a pragmatic plan for delivery in England.

"It demonstrates the key role that CCIOs in provider organisations must play in supporting this delivery, in partnership with, regulators and commissioners, and we strongly support it."

The CCIO Leaders network is an independent professional network of doctors nurses and other health professionals with a special interest in information.

Read more about Dr McDonald’s view of the Vision and 12-point plan in Insight.