NHS Digital’s first chief information security officer (CISO) has resigned, Digital Health News can reveal.

Robert Coles, former security chief at GlaxoSmithKline, was appointed in September 2018 and started on 1 October.

Digital Health News has seen an e-mail sent to all NHS Digital staff this afternoon confirming Coles will be stepping down for personal reasons.

Deputy chief executive Rob Shaw told staff the resignation was “accepted with great regret”.

He added: “I would like to personally thank him for the passion he brought to the role and the early progress he has made in developing the system-wide cyber strategy.”

Coles himself said: “I am very sorry not to be able to continue in my role at NHS Digital. I have enjoyed working with the very talented and passionate cyber security team at NHS Digital and seeing the commitment to improving cyber resilience across the health and care system. I wish everyone involved in building greater cyber resilience in the NHS the very best as they take this critical work forward.”

Coles was due to be tasked with devising an organisation-wide cyber security strategy for NHS Digital and acting as ‘point man’ in its organisational response to security incidents.

Prior to working at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Coles held posts as CISO for the National Grid and investment bank Merrill Lynch during a 30-year career in information security.

He was also due to speak at Digital Health Rewired in March.

NHS Digital began the hunt for an organisational cyber security lead in June 2017. The appointment had been one of the key recommendations of the WannaCry ‘lessons learned’ report penned by NHS England chief information officer Will Smart.

An advertisement for the role published online appealed to candidates capable of overseeing the operation and development of NHS Digital’s national security operations centre.

Shaw confirmed to staff that recruitment for Coles’ replacement would begin “immediately” given that “the cyber security agenda continues to be key for NHS Digital and for the organisations we support”.

But he added: “We are confident that our strong team of experts under Dan Taylor’s leadership can continue to deliver services as we recruit to this role.

“We have managed to recruit some really high quality resources within the team with a mixture of permanent staff and delivery partners and aim to continue to build on that solid foundation in this crucial area.”