Some 59% of NHS IT leaders say that top digital leadership roles should require certification.

The poll of CIOs and CCIOs, who are members on the Digital Health Networks professional community, suggests that support is building for the certification of digital leadership roles.

However, a third of respondents (33%), said certification of CCIOs and CIOS should not be made compulsory. While a further 7% said “don’t know”.

The poll was carried out in the aftermath of the news that Peter Knight, the former CIO for Oxford University Hospitals, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud after lying about his degree.

The poll was carried out on the Digital Health Networks Discourse community platform, with 57 votes cast between 9 and 23 December 2019.

The question of certification has generated a lively and well-informed discussion. Those in favour argued that digital is now so important to healthcare, and with the potential to do significant patient harm, that it should require specialist trained leaders.

While those against compulsory certification raised concerns raised that certification would close the profession, which was already struggling to recruit and retain skilled staff. Several CCIOs pointed out that they were already regulated and certified as doctors, and that being a CCIO was often not their primary job

One leading CCIO, speaking in favour of certification, said: “You can’t just call yourself a charge nurse or a radiographer, why can you call yourself a CIO/CCIO?.”

This was backed by a CIO who posted: “When I see a doctor, a nurse, a solicitor, an accountant, a pilot, a train driver, a gas engineer or a teacher I have a level of confidence in their ability to fulfil their duties because they have achieved and retained a level of professional competence.”

One CIO member speaking against, however, said: “Making certification compulsory severely risks limiting the diversity and inclusion opportunity for individuals who have gained capability through experience.”

Another added: “As for certification, we are not yet ready for compulsion, but I would like to see us move to that. However, there would first need to be clearer standardisation of the CIO role.”

To encourage free and open discussion the community operates under the Chatham House Rule, meaning that posts by members may not be directly attributed.

Current and future digital health leaders can sign-up to join Digital Health Networks.