Professor Keith McNeil, the former head of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has been appointed as England’s first national chief clinical information officer.
McNeil is one of a troika of three new NHS England digital health leaders announced on Thursday, comprising a CCIO a CIO and a head of digital experience.
McNeil led the ambitious eHospital programme at Cambridge, the biggest NHS trust digitisation project to date. The programme ultimately cost him his job after the initial phase of the big bang Epic EPR project hit difficulties.
The creation of the new roles is in line with recommendations from the soon to be published review of NHS IT carried out by Dr Robert Wachter.
The three new appointments will replace the chief information and rechnology Officer role that NHS England has been unable to fill.
Will Smart, the current CIO at the Royal Free Hospital, will be the new national CIO for NHS England.
Juliet Bauer, who’s experience is primarily outside health, will be the new director of digital experience at NHS England and will oversee the transformation of the NHS Choices website and the development and adoption of digital technology for patient self-care.
According to an NHS England bulletin the NHS CCIO and CIO post-holders will act on behalf of the whole NHS to provide strategic leadership, also chairing the National Information Board.
All three will report to Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s new director of operations commissioning, but the post-holders will also be accountable to NHS Improvement, with responsibility for its technology work with NHS providers.
Commenting on his appointment, Professor Keith McNeil said: “Introducing and embedding new technology takes time, and is always challenging. This is particularly so in hospitals and healthcare, however the rewards are great – getting it right transforms the way we care for patients, improves patient outcomes and saves time and money for the NHS.
“It was not easy implementing the electronic health record at Addenbrookes, but a year and a half on, the lessons for the future are clear and the benefits are there for all to see.”
Welcoming Professor McNeil’s appointment, Dr Bob Wachter said: “As a clinician with a track record in technology, Keith McNeil has shown he understands both why transformation is necessary, and how to make it happen. He ‘gets’ the necessity of clinical engagement, and the real world complexities of technology adoption.
“The journey may not always be smooth, but the electronic record system at Addenbrooke’s is now one of the best in the NHS, a real example of how technology can improve outcomes for patients. I was particularly taken by Addenbrooke’s emphasis on the importance of the human-technology interface – getting this right is absolutely critical to achieving technology’s full potential.”
Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s director of operations and information, said: “In the future we will not talk about ‘IT projects’, only ‘patient improvements supported by information and technology’ and these new appointments will give the NHS the shared leadership to make that happen.”