Informatics specialist Daniel Ray will be the new director of data science at the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

He will join the HSCIC on 14 March and head up a new Centre of Excellence for Big Data and Data Science.

The idea for the Centre of Excellence was proposed under the government’s Data Science Programme, designed to catalyse the use of data science in government policy-making and service delivery.

In early 2015, government departments were asked to produce action plans and the HSCIC, together with the Department of Health and the Cabinet Office, proposed the new centre as part of this work.

Ray recently left his position as director of informatics at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, where he co-founded the university’s Quality and Outcomes Research Unit.

He was in the role for nine years and has worked in the NHS for 17. He is also an honorary professor at the FARR Institute of Health Informatics Research, and was chair of the Health CIO Network from 2014-15.

Ray said the new role will involve: “Further unlocking national health datasets to help underpin evidence based policy making, along with being able to create an enabling secure environment to catapult world class research on the unique data holding the NHS generates.”

Professor Martin Severs, HSCIC lead clinician and interim director of information and analytics, said Ray brings knowledge and perspective of three key arenas that support high quality patient care; the NHS; the independent sector; and academia.

“His digital transformational work at University Hospital Birmingham is well known, while his appointment as a professor with the Farr Institute is testament to the regard in which he is held in the world of big data,” Severs said.

Ray took up a new role as director of data strategy at Method Analytics in January 2016, but will be leaving that role to work at the HSCIC.