Speculation rife on who will be the next NHS CIO

At the Tech UK London Health and Social Care Industry Dinner last night speculation was rife on who will be named the next national NHS chief information officer (CIO).

With a job advert published earlier this week, the favourite talk among industry insiders was who may be the person to fill the seat about to be vacated by Simon Bolton, interim CIO at NHS Digital, who had been due to become interim CIO at NHS England.

Bolton was at the dinner, but did not speak.  However the other national NHS CIO, Sonia Patel, did for the second year in a row. Patel joked that unlike her former NHS boss, Matthew Gould, now CEO of London Zoo, “I’m not planning to go to the zoo or jungle any time soon”.

A sign perhaps that Patel, who was first recruited in 2020 to be national CIO, before being unceremoniously moved sideways into a vaguer system CIO role when Bolton was appointed, retains her appetite and ambition for the role?

One school of thought held that Dr Tim Ferris, director of digital transformation at NHS England, may look outside the NHS for the next NHS CIO.  Interestingly, the job advert doesn’t stipulate that any health experience is necessary.

Perhaps someone from outside the NHS, but close to health: or from a big US health system, or maybe from the life sciences or pharma sectors?

Another school of thought speculates that Amanda Pritchard, CEO of NHS England, and NHS career insider, would prefer one of the organisation’s own with in-depth NHS experience to steady the ship and carry the dressing room.

Names speculated in the ‘NHS own camp’ beyond Patel included the hugely experienced Luke Readman, digital lead for NHS England’s London region, with a long career spanning IT leadership roles at the Wirral, Barts and London.

Another name suggested as a strong contender was the highly-regarded David Walliker, chief digital information officer (CDIO) at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Lisa Emery, recently moved as CIO to Sussex Integrated Care Board (ICB) from the Royal Marsden and chair of both the London CIO Council and CIO Network, was also suggested, as was Andy Kinnear, formerly CIO of South, Central and West CSU and a past chair of BCS Health and Care.

One further set of names speculated were the other candidates who made the short-list of NHS heavyweight CIOs when Patel was appointed in 2020.

Digital Health News understands that these included Paul Rice, now CIO at Bradford and Airedale, Richard Corbridge, former CIO at Leeds and now CIO at Boots; and Rachel Dunscombe, former CIO at Salford and CEO of NHS Digital Academy.

The recruitment is open online here with a closing date for applications of 15 January 2023.