NHS England has appointed Cerner’s managing director for population health as the new national director for commissioning operations and information.

Matthew Swindells succeeds Dame Barbara Hakin, who is due to retire at the end of this year after a 41-year career in the NHS, during which time she helped lead the establishment of clinical commissioning groups following the widespread reforms implemented by the recent coalition government.

Swindells will take up the post in spring, with Richard Barker, NHS England’s regional director for the North, to act as interim national director for commission operations and information from January.

The role involves the oversight of operational delivery in NHS England and of regional teams in their commissioning responsibilities.

An experienced NHS and IT manager, Swindells has been with US-based Cerner since 2010, joining the company from consultancy firm Tribal.

Prior to this his career includes a spell as interim chief information officer of the Department of Health, as well as two years as chief executive of Royal Surrey Country Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and a period as head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

He also served for a time as special adviser to Patricia Hewitt when she was health secretary under Tony Blair’s Labour government from 2005 to 2007. NHS chief executive Simon Stevens held a similar role from 1997 to 2001, before becoming the Prime Minister’s health adviser.

Outside the NHS, Swindells spent three years as chair of BCS Health, the healthcare arm of The Chartered Institute for IT, which was formed to support the use of informatics in healthcare.

Commenting on his appointment, Swindells said: “After five stimulating years working to improve health care around the world, I’m really pleased to be coming back to help lead the NHS at this ‘high stakes’ moment in its history.”

NHS England chair Professor Sir Malcolm Grant said: “We are delighted that (Swindells) will be returning to the NHS at this important moment, as we begin to drive major improvements in key areas such as cancer, mental health and primary care services, and the whole health service moves to implement the Five Year Forward View.”

NHS England added that Swindells will “divest himself of any financial interests in his current employer, and recuse himself from any official dealings with them for the subsequent 12 months after taking up post”. 

NHS England also announced two other senior appointments. Pauline Philip, chief executive of Luton and Dunstable University Hospital Foundation Trust, has been seconded to the organisation as ‘national urgent and emergency care director’ and Anu Singh leavers her role on Staffordshire County Council to become ‘director of patient and public participation and insight’.