Mandy Griffin had no experience in IT when she took a job in the NHS, something she describes as “the best thing I ever did”. Fast forward 10 years and her work in delivering Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust’s digital strategy saw her named CIO of the Year at the Digital Health Awards 2019.

From a successful career in management for Marks and Spencer, Mandy’s career took an unexpected turn when she was offered a job as chief operating officer at the trust and the Health Informatics Service in 2009.

Since then she has overseen the launch of one of the biggest electronic patient records (EPR) in the country, as well as several other key IT projects at the trust.

Back in July, Mandy was crowned CIO of the Year at the Digital Health Awards 2019.

‘Icing on the cake’

Mandy describes winning the award as like the “icing on the cake” of a career she’s thoroughly enjoyed.

What was more special was that she didn’t know she had been nominated by her chief executive and team members until she received a letter telling her she was a finalist.

“It captured all that learning that I had to do over a short period of time, from not knowing anything to winning the award,” she tells Digital Health News.

“It was just so nice that people thought enough about me to do that. This was just so much more personal, this was to say ‘Well done Mandy, you’ve done a great job’ and that meant a lot.

“Up to this point I felt a bit like an impostor because I’ve never done anything like this before.

“I’ve got loads more to learn, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve got loads more to do, but I just thought ‘I’ve got there’.”

Ambitious IT programme

Mandy is currently the CIO and managing director of digital health, responsible for the provision of information management and technology at the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT).

She is also the managing director of the Health Informatics Service, hosted by CHFT, which provides IT services to other care organisations across the NHS.

During her 10-year stint at the trust, Mandy has overseen the implementation of one of the biggest EPRs in the country, deployed in conjunction with Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as well as the wider digital strategy at the trust.

The EPR, powered by Cerner, was one of the largest by the US supplier in Europe when it went live in May 2017.

The deployment involved 600 ‘EPR Friends’ – staff members who had received additional training and who offered guidance on the system’s use – as well as 170 ‘EPR Floorwalkers’, who’d worked on other go-live projects across the country, and 70 members of Cerner staff.

Since then Mandy has helped oversee the transition of the EPR into community settings, including midwifery and social care.

She tells Digital Health News the EPR provided a platform for the trust to build further digital services.

“The EPR is the core but we’ve built so much onto it that it’s really digitised our whole trust. We’re also looking to be paperless and we are striving for the HIMMS stage 6,” she explains.

“We are doing quite a lot in the community in being able to share records across the community, including social care now.

“We also deployed a maternity EPR in 2016 and we are one of five across the whole country that have done patient care end-to-end [in maternity], including community midwives.”

Mandy also oversaw the introduction of ECG management onto the EPR, which ensures any patient who comes into the hospital needing their heart traced in automatically added and followed on the EPR. The add-on was fully adopted in 12 weeks.

“The journey has just been absolutely crazy because we’ve done so much so quickly,” she adds.

From M&S store manager to IT whizz

Mandy had worked her way up to store manager at a large Marks and Spencer in Harrogate when she was offered a leadership role at CHFT by “pure fluke”.

She was asked by one of her managers at M&S if she would be happy to host a member of an NHS informatics team in her store to take them through customer service management. From there, she received an email asking her if she would like to apply for a job in the NHS.

In January 2009 and she started her role as chief operating officer at the trust and the Health Informatics Service.

“I had no intention of leaving M&S, I had a good career and a good salary, everything you’d want in a job, so I thought I was going to stay there until the very end,” she explains.

“So it was pure fluke, but it was the best thing I ever did.”

With very little knowledge of IT and working in the public sector, Mandy decided to complete a Master of Science in health informatics at Leeds University.

She also freely admits she will never be an expert in the world of NHS IT as there’s too much to learn; instead, she says it’s important to seek guidance from peers and listen to others’ advice.

A piece of advice

“Be prepared to listen and learn, because the learning can get very detailed you have to listen to other,” she says.

“Try to understand the industry – especially coming from the private sector, I learned the public sector works in very different ways.

“You can’t be the expert in everything in this field because it’s just too much and too complex.

“But also take a few risks. Make the mistakes you can afford to make. You’ve got to take a few risks, otherwise you just do nothing.”