The former chief executive of NHS Digital, Andy Williams, has now joined European digital health company, Zesty, which specialises in appointment bookings.
Williams will officially commence his role as Board Advisor for the UK-based company on 1 October, he has been succeeded at NHS Digita by Sarah Wilkinson, previously CTO at The Home Office.
“Whilst I’ve moved on from my role as head of NHS Digital, I’m still really interested in digital technology in healthcare and Zesty are a little company that have some really interesting propositions and products”, Williams told Digital Health News.
“One of the things I’d like to do now that I have retired from my previous job is help companies like Zesty.”
Williams’ role will involve helping them grow “to becoming a larger company with an even better product.”
Zesty has launched more than 20 new online booking services for various NHS trusts across the UK and will shortly announce new digital outpatient projects with one of the Global Digital Exemplar, one of the largest Scottish NHS trusts and one of Europe’s largest private healthcare providers in Germany.
Williams, who headed NHS Digital (formerly HSCIC) from 2014 to 2017, has extensive experience in overseeing large transformational technology projects in the UK and around the world, having led teams in companies such as IBM, Alcatel-Lucent and CSC.
During his three-year stint at NHS Digital, health secretary Jeremy Hunt commended Williams on making a decisive contribution to setting the NHS on course “to be far better digitally integrated and advanced.”
“I think there were a lot of different programs when I arrived that people were sceptical would get delivered, and they were delivered successfully in the first year or so, such as moving into patient-facing services and in-sourcing some of the last programs form the old National Program for IT ”, Williams said.
He noted another achievement as being influential in helping create a new agenda and strategy, which was “much less about top-down and more about getting organisations across the health system on how they could better use technology” and the role of the centre in helping stitch all that together.
Despite the successful contributions his former organisation has made during the digital health revolution, Williams said there are still a few challenges ahead. “There are the obvious ones which everyone knows about, for example, how to make better use of data but with the patients’ consent and their permission; How to better use data to help patients in a way that patients are comfortable with that happening.”
“Being at the heart of the digital revolution, patient-facing digital services and private security is a big challenge for NHS Digital which I think they’re doing a good job at. There’s a lot going on in that space with Wannacry.”
“One of the things I was very proud of at NHS Digital which nobody really pays any attention to is all the national systems they run, from email to Spine. Nobody ever complains until it stops. That’s not so much a challenge but that they need to continue with it.”
On Williams’ appointment, Zesty CEO James Balmain said he was a natural choice for the role due to his extensive experience within the public and private European healthcare sectors.
“His vast knowledge of the UK healthcare market, impressive network of NHS contacts and operational experience will certainly add value to our board”, Balmain said.
“We are very excited and honoured Andy has agreed to help us with our mission to improve access to healthcare with patient-facing services.”
13 October 2017 @ 14:59
I think it has more to do with influence i.e contacts and leverage. Most of these appointments are to help access the high level NHS / DOH exec contacts, access knowledge of inner workings and raise the company profile to win business. I think the bigger question is around transparent procurement, not “board level” shortcuts that is still prevalent within the NHS. Ex – ministers / public sector / NHS to the private sector is very much alive and has been accepted for years, don’t really see much changing.
8 October 2017 @ 13:15
Does anyone else get the feeling that there are a ton of people who view working for the NHS as a platform to jump in to the private sector?
I think this creates and is a testimony to the tremendous amount of opacity in the NHS market place.
Of course the NHS itself obviously isn’t doing enough to keep these talented people working for them, but then as a second blow, these same people are going to help private enterprises profit massively from the NHS – with pretty rubbish tech that no one wants.
The market place in the NHS isn’t fair due to these reasons!
9 October 2017 @ 09:17
Matt – there isn’t necessarily going to be a flood of rubbish tech coming to the NHS. That’s also up to the “buyer” to properly assess what it’s procuring. NHS could do better at that.
The NHS is a very difficult market for businesses to access, and they really need these people to help them move around it. There’s also a bit of money to be made…. when you do a good job.
It’s that simple.
But, please, don’t tar us all in the private sector bringing innovation to the NHS (which is much needed) as simply people hawking rubbish software.
10 October 2017 @ 00:11
Hello The Insider,
Just FYI, I am also in the private sector with my software being used in the NHS. I am also a doctor, so have first hand experience at how bad NHS tech is.
I’m just calling it like it is – market forces are not fair in the NHS, it is an opaque system with plenty of favouritism. The best tech doesn’t win 99% of the time.
9 October 2017 @ 15:40
It does cut both ways – there is strong representation of former private sector people at NHS Digital, some of whom have been there along time. In my experience, the private sector is marginally better at weeding out the deadwood, but there’s not much in it.