NHS England has appointed an internal candidate, Dr Melanie Iles, as the first female national chief clinical information officer.

Digital Health understands that the interim appointment was made following the position being briefly advertised internally within the organisation.

NHS England has lacked a permanent national CCIO since the departure of Dr Simon Eccles, following the merger of NHSX last March.

Dr Jonathan Benger, former NHS Digital medical director, then served as an interim national CCIO until November 2022, before taking up the role of medical director at NICE.

The appointment of an interim internal NHS England candidate runs counter to calls by chair of the CCIO Network James Reed for an open national recruitment for a CCIO with proven hands-on experience of leading provider digitisation projects.

Dr Reed wrote to NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard last August and then again earlier this month urging a replacement national CCIO be recruited, ideally with front-line digital experience.

Speaking to Digital Health News, Dr Reed said: “Despite being repeatedly assured that a response to my letters was imminent, I’ve never had a reply.”

He added: “I don’t yet know Dr Iles, who I’m sure is very good, but I would still like to see a national CCIO who has the lived experience of leading digitisation at the front line.

“I am hopeful that we will see the open and transparent appointments process to the substantive role that I have been asking to give anyone interested the opportunity.”

The role of national CCIO was first created in 2016, as one of the ten recommendations of the Wachter Review of NHS IT. The first post-holder was Professor Keith McNeil.

Although no official announcement has yet been made, Dr Iles was introduced to NHSE colleagues as national CCIO on an NHSE call this Tuesday.

Dr Iles is listed on LinkedIn as medical director system improvement and professional standards at NHS England and NHS Improvement and has worked as a regional medical director in the East of England.

Dr Iles was previously a consultant paediatrician at West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.