NHS at 70: NHS leads the way for top UK CIOs

With 2018 marking the 70th anniversary of the NHS, it’s important not to lose sight of the organisation’s hard-working staff who dedicate themselves to patients throughout the whole of the UK.

For a number of years now, the NHS has been heading towards digital transformation in an effort to make operations run smoother and benefit patient care. Now, a list of the Top 100 CIOs in the UK by the International Data Group, has highlighted the individuals in the NHS who are leading the charge in terms of digital transformation.

With seven of the Top 100 CIOs being named as NHS leaders, the list highlights the ways in which the organisation is pushing towards digital initiatives.

Take Amy Freeman for example, associate director of IT at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who has utilised a virtual fracture clinic that has halved the number of face-to-face follow-up clinics required. The service is also ensuring that those who do undertake a follow-up are seen by the right specialist, resulting in better clinical outcomes.

More so, under the leadership CIO David Walliker, the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospitals University NHS Trust, has marked itself as one of the country’s foremost leaders in digital transformation. Last year the Trust was awarded best Global Digital Exemplar and has since been pushing towards a number of digital initiatives, including a drive to eliminate paper records and using AI to help improve clinical decision making and reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Director of Digital for Salford Royal Group, Rachel Dunscombe places highly on the Top 100 list for a range of achievements. An enthusiast of digital technologies and the leader of the NHS Digital Academy, Dunscombe has helped accelerate the Global Digital Exemplar programme. In the two years since the Global Digital Exemplar programme begun, Salford Royal has seen achievements, including:

  • Reducing the average length of hospital stay for patients with delirium in from 73 days to 35 days between September and December 2017.
  • Used apps and wearables to enable real-time clinical monitoring of patients.
  • The launch of a new-state-of-the-art electronic control system to give up to date, real-time data on inpatient flow, outpatient utilisation and admission trends.

Speaking about the ways in which technology is playing a role within the NHS, Dunscombe said:

“Now on the NHS’ 70th birthday I feel we are embracing technology fit for the current age. From unit dose robots for pharmacy through to wearables and citizen digital we are starting to transform how we deliver care. The quality and safety benefits as well of the efficiency of digital enabled health and wellness are starting to be realised. We are learning more about the early signs of disease and how these can be picked up using technology. I am optimistic about the future of the NHS and how we can keep people well and reduce the progress of disease using data and technology.”

Also on the list is Stephen Docherty, CIO for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Digital Health Age had the chance to ask Docherty about what it’s like to be featured in the Top 100 CIOs, and also about where he sees the NHS heading in its digital trajectory.


What’s it like to be featured in the CIO Top 100 list?

I’m really pleased to be named in the CIO100 list as we need to ensure that today’s digital leaders are given a platform and a voice to promote what we do, and to celebrate success across all sectors. Given that every industry now has to embark on the digital journey, now is the time for digital leaders to step up to the forefront of their organisations. I completed a masters back in 2016 and my dissertation was titled ‘Why are IT Leaders not so prominent’. The focus of which was around the digital revolution and why we are not bringing on the next-gen digital leaders, or the lack of a career path in this regard, which is something I feel passionate about. So, my involvement in the CIO100 is something I can hopefully use to promote our profession.


Where do you see the NHS at 70 in regards to digitisation?

I think the NHS at 70 is going through a great transition from a digital perspective. There is such a massive focus on digitisation and I really believe that if we maintain course that the benefits will come. There is no choice for the NHS – this is fundamental to its core. I think that we are seeing the right level of activity and its great to see that we are implementing the recommendations from the Wachter Report, including the GDE programme and the NHS Digital Academy. I feel we are creating a sense of urgency around the delivery of digital and people are up for it.


Is there one area of healthcare which you think could benefit the most from digital technology?

There are many…but if I were to pick one area….then streamlining applications and giving front-line clinicians the right information at their fingertips, in a visual and meaningful way with minimum intervention will go a long way. We should make the tech and information work for the clinicians, not the other way, thus allowing them to spend more time with patients. Designing the user experience (UX) to allow for this should be a priority. The rest should fall into place in terms of interoperability of systems to exchange data for shared records across the health and social environment.


What initiatives are driving digital change within the NHS?

What is really heartening to see is the coming together of the various parties who are embarking upon the digital journey to make it a reality. Specifically, STP footprints are coming together to follow through on their digital plans and collaborate, with local authority representation at the table. In London we are really coming together and recently formed the London Digital Board with representation from all 5 STP footprints, London Ambulance Service, National CCIO, CIO and CDO, members of the public, regional leads from NHSE, NHSD, Public Health England and the London Mayor’s Chief Digital Officer (Theo Blackwell). We are working together to deliver the digital vision for London’s population. At the end of the day…it’s not about the technology…it’s about people coming together to make it happen.

Reece Armstrong is a reporter for Digital Health Age. Coming from the North East of England, Reece has an MA in Media & Journalism and a BA in Popular & Contemporary Music from Newcastle University. Reach him on Twitter or email via: reece.armstrong@rapidnews.com

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