In July, the new members of the CIO and CCIO Advisory Panels were revealed and over the next few weeks, we will be running a series of profiles on our new panel members. First up is Fiona McDonald, a digital clinical advisor for NHSX who talks about the challenges of working in a man’s world and why cleaning isn’t her favourite past time. 

How did you become a CCIO?

I don’t have an official CCIO title, but I am senior digital leader. I earned my stripes as a clinical lead for the electronic prescription service from 2009, until I became the senior clinical lead in 2015.

I am a nurse by background (health visitor, paediatric ward sister, deputy director of nursing in the old PCT days and clinical lead across community care).

I had a break from work when my three children were all at different places for their education and it proved impossible to hold down a senior role and not leave a child stranded at a nursery somewhere. After a few years when they were all at school I got a little bored so set up my own travel company in the distant days of the dawn of the internet, I ended up with over 400 villas on my books and after building my own website (front page software in those days, no widgets) sold it in 2010.

As the kids got older, my husband kept sending me job adverts – think he was trying to tell me something but branded it as ‘you will get empty nest syndrome’. I wanted to do something in informatics as my travel business had boomed with the introduction of the internet and I knew some of the principles could be adopted in healthcare.

What is your current role?

I am a digital clinical advisor for NHSX mostly in transformation in primary care and director of patient preferences for the Great North Care Record.

We have completed a test bed where 92% of patients set their contact preferences and 75% opted in to be contacted for suitable clinical research trials. A few tweaks and another round of testing in a general practice setting and it will be ready for the regional patient portal.

What is the most challenging part of the CCIO/CIO role?

Influencing in a man’s world.

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

The explosion of patient facing health technology and health care, freeing staff time and allowing patients to have a more active and accessible role in the management of their healthcare.

What’s the largest barrier to achieving digital transformation?

Persuading clinicians to do something differently, often without an evidence base as often its so new, there is none.

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

Invest in CCIO (nursing) CCIO (pharmacy) CCIO (AHP) in every healthcare organisation.

Give all staff access to a shared drive (the same one), standardise and purchase one video conferencing platform that every trust, university, healthcare and local authority could access without firewall problems (my math maybe a little out, but I am using artistic license).

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

Skype for business/ Office 365.

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

Cleaning someone’s house during the school holidays for spending money before starting my A-levels, it involved moving a puzzle that the owners were completing on a board every week! I hate cleaning.

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

Travel writer, visitor and tester of course

What’s the background image on your phone?

The world

What’s the last TV series you binge-watched?


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

My Mam

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

Sandra Bullock