Liz Ashall-Payne of ORCHA and Susie Day of NHS Digital were among the women recognised for their work in the health technology industry at the Women in IT awards.

Ashall-Payne, founding CEO of the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA), was named Entrepreneur of the Year in a category that included female leaders from cyber security firm Darktrace and transport solutions company 365 response.

ORCHA has become a global leader in health app accreditation and distribution since Ashall-Payne founded it in 2015, reviewing more digital products than any other review engine in the world with 17,000 reviews to date. The company supports NHS organisations in 70% of regions with libraries of digital health products.

The judges said they had been looking for a female leader of a technology, digital or e-commerce start-up which has demonstrated excellent growth in the last two years with a coherent and sustainable strategy in achieving it.

Judges considered growth, standout achievements and customer testimonials, ultimately selecting Ashall-Payne, describing her as ‘a visionary role model’.

Ashall-Payne said: “It was like being at the BAFTAs. The spotlight was on me as I walked up to the stage and the judges were saying I was an inspiring leader. I was a bit in shock and didn’t quite believe it was true. All the big companies were there – IBM, Amazon and Microsoft. I just felt humble. This award isn’t for me – it’s for the whole ORCHA team.

“There’s a real message to other entrepreneurs here. I’m a clinician by training not a technology expert. I hope this gives people who aren’t necessarily tech-savvy the confidence to try and solve a problem using tech, which is exactly what I did.

“There’s also a lot of research about our confidence as women in the workplace. Confidence is a real issue – we can’t ignore it. We work really hard at ORCHA to nurture our fantastic female colleagues and this award will give us all a boost.”

NHS Digital also scooped an award at the ceremony held in London last month at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House, as programme head for the NHS App, Susie Day, was named Digital Transformation Leader of the Year.

Day played a critical role in the government’s response to the pandemic by leading the integration of the NHS App with the Covid Pass and subsequent national roll-out.

Judges were impressed by her ability to solve a complex problem within three months amidst extreme political pressure and oversight, all while continuing to improve the experience of those using the NHS App.

They said her ongoing passion for delivering effective access to digital healthcare services while meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders and assimilating multiple mobile devices put her head and shoulders above the competition.

Day said: “I am absolutely delighted to have received this award, the competition in this category was incredibly fierce with a great set of shortlisted nominations.

“This award represents the incredible work that has been undertaken not only by the NHS App team since its launch in 2019, but also the work undertaken last year with NHSX on the Covid Pass.

“The Covid Pass delivery was a fantastic collaboration with the wider NHS organisations and Department of Health and Social Care, and it has enabled the NHS App to get real traction across England and the Isle of Man.”

Susie Day’s work with the NHS App, which celebrated turning three with 22million users in January, is just one example of the significant waves women in IT, a male-dominated industry, are making across the UK and the world.

Day added: “I am very fortunate to have worked and continue to work with many amazing women working in IT, particularly within the Citizen Health Technology sub-Directorate at NHS Digital, yet the sector as a whole remains male dominated.

“It is therefore so important that we continue to advocate for the many and varied roles that are available and ensure the sector is an inclusive place to work, and part of that is continuing to recognise the many women working in IT.”