In our first chief nursing information officer profile, we are talking to Helen Balsdon, CNIO, at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She tells Digital Health News about why she took up the role, the nurse she’d have as her dream dinner guest and what the digital exemplar trust is doing in the next year.

Why did you become an NHS CNIO?

Because I really saw the potential that technology could have for great patient care. It could make a real partnership, and let patients take the control wherever they were able to.

Within your organisation, what is the most significant digital achievement of the past 12 months?

It’s got to be MyChart [personal health record at Cambridge].

What will be the most significant of the next 12 months?

I think it’s the links with the other hospitals, because that’s got real potential for patients.

Having that ability to keep not retelling their story, I think has got huge power, as well as making sure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.

What’s the biggest barrier to being a more effective CNIO?

I think it’s multiple competing agendas. How do you do real transformation in a cost strapped environment, and make sure everybody’s going in the same direction?

What’s the biggest barrier the NHS faces overall in achieving digital transformation?

Money. It’s also about having that leap of faith in having that decision to do it; it appears really costly if you just look at the costs for what they are, people often don’t look at what you might get in terms of efficiency and savings.

Making those decisions in a cost strapped environment is really tricky. I’m so glad we’ve already done it!

If you have one piece of advice for other NHS CNIOs, what would it be?

Keep an eye on safety and quality and have that at the heart of all you do. What is the right thing to do clinically, and how can technology enable that, as opposed to thinking about the technology first. Always come back to the patient.

Who in the NHS do you admire the most and why?

I’m going to say Keith McNeil. He’s just such an amazing leader and great faith, and I’m really sad to see he’s going.

If you were given £30 million to spend on digital transformation within your trust, where would that money go?

I’d probably be really sad and say more hardware, and hardware and kit that would make it easy to transform services.

What is the most over-hyped digital innovation in health?


What is the most under-rated digital innovation in health?

Wi-fi, because we take it for granted. We can’t deliver some of what we do, without the wi-fi infrastructure we have.

And a few non-digital questions, what’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why?

I was a staff nurse in renal, and I didn’t enjoy the care environment!

If you could invite three people, alive or dead, to dinner who would they be?

Nelson Mandela, the Queen and Florence Nightingale. Stick a nurse in there somewhere!

What’s the background image on your home computer?

Autumn leaves.

What’s your favourite piece of technology at home and why?

It’s my sewing machine.

If you could have any other job, what would it be?

I’d just like my little arts and crafts space, a little shop and B’n’B, café on the side. Something completely different! In a place of beauty so you could go walking as well.

In a film of your life, who would play you?

Emily Blunt.

Emily Blunt, Helen’s ideal actress to play her in a movie of her life.