NHS shakes up IT director roles

NHS Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for delivering the four year late £12.7 billion National Programme for IT, is being restructured to help the troubled programme.

Connecting for Health (CfH) will see its remit reduced to become a "delivery organisation", and will support a new organisation overseeing health technology, the Department of Health Informatics Directorate.

The changes were geared towards "accelerating the implementation" of the IT systems, a CfH spokesperson said.

The newly created Health Informatics Directorate will consist of six directors including Martin Bellamy, director of programme and systems delivery. There will also be a director of policy and planning, a chief business architect, a commercial director and a clinical director.

CfH chief technology officer (CTO) Paul Jones will move to the Department of Health and retain his CTO title. Jones, who last year told Computerworld UK that standards bodies needed to "stop arguing", will own the overall technical architecture to be used by the NHS and Department for Health and will ensure that systems developed conform to that architecture.

Each director will report to chief information officer for health, Christine Connolly as well as Tim Straughan, chief information officer of the NHS Information Centre..

As part of CfH's own restructure, there will be eight directors, including a finance director and a chief technology officer. Another five directors will be responsible for delivery units.

Crucially, a new supplier management director will be appointed at CfH. The NHS and IT suppliers have had tense negotiations over the years, most notably resulting in two suppliers leaving the programme - Accenture in 2006 and Fujitsu last May - and remaining suppliers CSC and BT signing contract "refreshes".

CfH will appoint a new delivery director directly responsible for the iSoft Lorenzo patient records system being rolled out across the north of England, but no counterpart is planned for Cerner Millennium, the equivalent system which has experienced some difficult initial rollouts in London and the south of England.

The CfH spokesperson said the changes were required to "build up the core functions required to ensure the development and delivery of an overall informatics strategy for the health and social care system."

The restructuring comes one year after Sir Bruce Keogh was appointed as the government's health director general of informatics, and is thought to be one of the first major steps taken by chief information officer Christine Connolly to tackle the problems experienced by the programme.

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