Former NHS England digital head Tim Kelsey has been appointed to the top digital health job in Australia.

On Monday morning, Australian minister for health, Sussan Ley, announced that Kelsey had been appointed chief executive at the Australian Digital Health Agency.

The role will once again put Kelsey in charge of a nation’s digital health service and system “with a focus on engagement, innovation and clinical quality and safety”.

Ley said Kelsey was regarded internationally as “a leader in digital health, in both the private and public sectors, and has a proven track record in delivery of digital health services”.

“He is the right choice for the appointment as CEO of the Australian Digital Health Agency to further the Australian Government’s commitment to use digital health to create a world‐class health system for all Australians.”

Kelsey is best known in the UK as NHS England’s national director for patients and information, which gave him a wide remit over Health IT strategy and commissioning. He was also chairman of the National Health Board.

In December last year he left both jobs, moving to Australia to take up a position at telecommunications company Telstra, which owns his old company, Dr Foster.

During his tenure at NHS England he oversaw most of the biggest, and sometimes most controversial, health IT projects in recent years. He was a polarising personality, described by one chief information officer “as a bit of marmite character”.

In 2013, he oversaw a big overhaul of the NHS Choices website, introducing more information for patients, particularly about the performance of hospitals and individual medical teams.

However, he was also heavily involved in the contentious project to expand Hospital Episode Statistics, including adding GP records, to create a richer national patient data set.

The project was shelved after protests from GPs and patient groups concerned about how patient information was being used, including suggestions that it would be shared with marketers and private insurers.

These concerns were further exacerbated when NHS England attempted to run a public information campaign in January 2014. The campaign was criticised by clinicians for sending out a ‘junk mail’ leaflet that failed to mention the project by name, or include an opt-out form.

Following the release of the latest Caldicott review into information governance last month, the project was scrapped entirely.  

Kelsey will start at the Australian agency not long after the launch of a nationwide My Health Record, which provides an online health summary that patients can view and share with clinicians.

He will start in his new role later this month.