Key NHS IT and clinical staff will connect with the people developing and running national systems for health and care as part of a Digital Leaders programme, being launched today.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre and Digital Health Intelligence have worked together on developing the programme, which beings with a six month pilot project.

The pilot aims to forge further connections between HSCIC senior managers and their key customers across the health and care sector, focusing on chief information officers and chief clinical information officers primarily working in NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups, and local authorities.

HSCIC is responsible for running critical national systems for health and care such as the Spine, Summary Care Record and NHSmail. It is also responsible for the safe and secure collation and analysis of health and care information in England.

Digital Health Networks combines digital leadership events and webinars with a dedicated social media platform, to support online discussion and collaboration.  At the centre of the community are the CCIO and Health CIO Networks, which have been steadily developed since 2011.  More than 2000 members are currently registered.

Dr Joe McDonald, CCIO for Northumberland Tyne and Wear Mental Health Trust and chair of the CCIO Network, said: “Having this new, instant and direct connection to HSCIC’s directors responsible for the ongoing development of key national systems will ensure that they can be developed to absolutely support local needs.

“Successful IT in healthcare comes when local and national organisations work absolutely hand in hand with each other, each playing their role as partners in a trusting relationship. The Digital Leadership programme will help cement that relationship,” he said.

Isabel Hunt, director of customer relations at HSCIC said: “As a provider of major national systems and services for the entire health and care sector, it is essential our customers are able to input into this work as it develops.

“The communication challenge for us therefore is the engage with several hundred local organisations that have a part to play:  we want to involve them all in shaping our thinking. The Digital Health Networks platform enables us to do that quickly and without re-inventing an already working wheel.”

Digital Health CEO Jon Hoeksma adds: “It’s great to have the opportunity to work with HSCIC’s leaders to help them connect with local health and care leaders, through existing online channels.

“Sometimes the medium is a vital part of the message itself.”

The pilot programme will run for six months from 30 September 2015 to 31 March 2016. During the pilot, CIOs and CCIOs will be invited to actively shape the development and operational delivery of the Spine, eReferrals Service, Summary Care Record and NHSmail secure email systems.

Discussions will be led by HSCIC to find the optimum way of balancing the need to protect information with the need to share it in support of patient care. HSCIC and Digital Health will also look at the practicalities of using the network to bring in local authority CIOs to discuss health and social care integration issues.

The final strand of the pilot looks at how the IT supplier industry supporting health and care can be included in the strategic discussions taking place between central and national NHS organisations.