Paul Southern, consultant hepatologist and dynamic CCIO at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS FT, died suddenly last month.

Two of his colleagues, who worked closely with him, recall some of their fond memories of working with Paul and his many contributions to staff and patients at Bradford.

Dave Griffith on Paul

Dave Griffith, informatics programme manager at Bradford who worked closely with Paul for over ten years, shares some of his recollections:

Paul Southern was the first deputy chair of the Going Digital Programme Board when we started out in November 2011, although his title at that point was “just” Consultant Hepatologist, he was Associate Medical Director, Medical Informatics by June 2013.

Remarkably, he went through 3 EPRs with us (Lorenzo, Best of Breed and then Cerner Millennium).

In March 2011 we held an informatics strategy workshop where we invited representatives from all clinical areas. All of the presentations had completely expected titles, except one, which was titled ‘What it’s like for us – A clinician’s perspective (secret diary of a hepatologist aged 38 ¾)’. I’ll leave you to guess whose that was!

He was also the person who supported informatics and hospital teams when there was a problem: a data centre power outage and letters not sent are just two that spring to mind.

He’d be the person who almost instinctively knew how an issue could be resolved, acted as a shield to the people fixing the problem and kept everybody’s spirits up to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible.

Paul will be hugely missed and remain immensely admired.

Paul Rice on Paul

Paul Rice, chief digital and information officer at both Bradford and neighbouring trust Airedale shares his memories of Paul:

Paul Southern, who tragically was taken from us earlier this week aged 50, was an informatics titan, and someone I had the privilege to call a friend.

He was a hepatologist whose clinical expertise was widely acknowledged paired with the quieter, technically adept, steadying hand.

When I moved to Bradford one of my key questions was what flavour of CCIO would I get? Would we gel? Could we get some real work done? Starting in a pandemic presented its own unique challenges, masks, social distancing, windows permanently ajar, freshening West Yorkshire gales gusting through.

I couldn’t have been more fortunate in working with Paul the past two years; he was an exceptional CCIO, hugely knowledgeable and respected and a pleasure to work with.

He was also the first person to call me ‘Ricey’ since the playground. Dr R and Dr S, accidentally thinking the comments on the Teams thread we were sharing were exclusive to us.

I would constantly remind him to go on mute as he multi-tasked frenetically but somehow never missed a beat in the conversation – unerringly like the pick-up song skit from Radio 4’s ‘I’m sorry I haven’t a clue’.

In the informatics sphere there was no one who had a greater understanding of how the Electronic Patient Record worked, its strengths and its limitations.

There was also no one who had a better appreciation than Paul – both technically and critically how it would be used in practice – of everything from the crash cart bleeps to bedside remote monitoring, digital dictation and the 835 carts for Business Continuity Planning.

Whether it was deploying a new capability, or upgrading the system in the wee small hours, Paul would always be there front and centre.

His was the face fronting up the e-learning packages and the shoulder most frequently tapped for a “there is something wrong with my (insert device name here)”, can you just conversation with colleagues on corridors. And then popping up virtually to deliver insights and advice regarding digital transformation to hospitals near and far, banking some vendor credits to support our next change ambition.

Paul was my babel fish communicating and translating to the team when my brain and mouth were running apace and the words were coming faster than the actions were being clearly described and allocated.

At times he would engage his clinical colleagues to judiciously say “no, or not now, or not until we exploit the capabilities we have at our fingertips”. Paul was always focused on how the patients would benefit, never pursuing the next shiny thing for the sake of it.

I don’t know if there is perfect recipe for a CCIO, but if there is Paul came very, very close.

He was taken far, far too soon from his family and will be sorely missed by his colleagues, friends and of course patients.