This week we’re chatting to Phillipa Winter, chief informatics officer at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, who tells us why a strong voice and an open ear is key to becoming a more effective NHS CIO.

Why did you become an NHS CIO?

After working in the NHS for over 24 years in many roles and departments as an occupational therapist, a therapy manager and chief clinical informatics officer, the opportunity to become a CIO was the perfect opportunity for me to make large-scale transformation that improved patient care and user satisfaction.

What is the most important part of the NHS CIO role?

For me, the most important part of my role is working in collaboration with our clinical workforce, empowering clinicians to co-design the future of NHS technology. Also, networking with peers to share learning and adopt best practice, and help save on precious NHS resources.

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

We have had a great year of investment for electronic patient record deployment, network refresh, unified communications and electronic observations, all of which we will start to deploy by the end of the financial year. We hosted a site visit at the 2017 Summer School to demonstrate our virtual desktop infrastructure and ‘the art of the possible’, which we have deployed successfully with single sign-on to over 3,500 desktops.

What will be the most significant development in healthcare over the next 12 months?

It will be interesting now we have a new health minister in position to understand his plans and how he aims to deploy more clinical applications. I personally want to leverage our investments and work in partnership with suppliers to drive innovation with creative procurements and partnerships, and really transform our workforce capabilities.

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

I think it is vital to have a strong voice on the board, and across the country there is variability in access to board CIO roles. I do feel the CIO having full engagement with the board is key, as the future is digital and will touch all aspects of healthcare. I have been developing this strong relationship at Bolton; being directly influential is important to ensure the digital agenda is not diluted in other portfolios.

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

Political and organisational barriers to truly collaborate across large-scale STPs.

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

It can be a lonely world. Make sure you have a strong network and be open to learning lessons from others. Shared intelligence is vital to manage resources and programmes efficiently and effectively.

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

The staff on the ground. Every day they are faced with significant challenges, heartache and joy. We have the most to learn from them in regards to how we can improve patient care and experience as they, with patients, live it daily.

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

The money would be well spent! For me, there is significant investment needed in collaboration across localities and STPs, to share records to enable better care and health across communities. Transforming the workforce to enable preventative health programmes is vital; to do this we would need to empower the citizen with access to their records, and through the use of personal devices to assist them in managing their health.

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

There are sometimes barriers that mean digital innovations in health can’t always reach their full potential. However, from any programme which may have been ‘over-hyped’ there are always significant lessons that can be learnt. We need to ensure that discussions about large-scale deployments don’t stop because of previous experiences – open standards and interoperability are the key and the future.

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

Open source. It is vital we drive this agenda as digital leaders, to share best practice and offer the opportunities free at the point of care for others to capitalise on.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why?

None have been that bad, but at 15 working on the market in a butcher’s as one of only two girls, was pretty messy. It was hard work but gave me my first exposure to work and having a good work ethic. It developed my customer services; gave me muscles from lifting, carrying and cleaning the wood blocks; and built my resistance to the cold in winter. And there was the banter from the other butcher hands.

If you could travel back in time to meet one person, who would it be?

Joan of Arc: I would love to discuss her story and pathway to becoming who she was; her strategies that supported her tenacity and resilience.

“Stand up for what you believe in” is a great phrase to live by, and nobody did this more so than Joan of Arc. She was a great believer in destiny like myself. She once claimed: “I am not afraid, I was born to do this.” At a time when a woman on the battlefield was unheard of, she eventually led her army to victory, fearlessly fighting and eventually dying to defend her country and strong beliefs.

She is an excellent role model and it would be awesome to learn lessons in leadership and engagement from her.

What’s the last song you listened to (be honest!)

Hard to remember as music is a big part of my life…but it was loud for sure!

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

We have an awesome in-built Sonos system throughout our home. As a family we love music, loud and all through the house. You can also hear me coming to and from work as I rock my way in, on my daily commute.

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

If I wasn’t doing this job, I think being a barber with sleeve tattoos and brightly-coloured hair would be fabulous (my retirement plan). But before I retire, my aspiration would be a board CIO or STP position.

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

We joke at work on a programme across GM about being the Avengers. I am Black Widow, so I suppose the person to play me would be Scarlett Johansson.