25 April 2008
The Department of Health has appointed a leading heart surgeon to oversee the NHS's use of IT.
NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, formerly director of surgery at the Heart Hospital, University College London Hospitals Trust, will also become director general for informatics. He will replace the DoH's interim chief information officer, Matthew Swindells, who is to join consultancy Tribal.
The DoH has also advertised the two posts that will lead the NHS's IT development and the £12.4bn National Programme for IT following the departure of director general of IT Richard Granger earlier this year. These are chief information officer and director of programme and system delivery.
The National Programme, the world's largest computer project, is running late and has been sharply criticised by the Commons Public Accounts Committee. It has also come under fire from doctors, who are particularly critical of plans to put detailed patient records on a national NHS data 'spine'.
Keogh, who has worked on the DoH's informatics review, which will set a new strategy for NHS IT when it is published in the summer, said: 'Accelerating the development and uptake of reliable local and national information systems will make the jobs of managers and clinicians easier and enable them to focus on improving clinical quality.'
Martyn Thomas, Oxford University visiting professor in software engineering and spokesman for the 'NHS 23' group of academics – which questions the project's feasibility – said Keogh's appointment would be 'terrific' if it focused 'on the delivery of systems doctors really need'.
But he added: 'My guess is things have gone too far. It will be interesting to know what he feels his criteria for success are.'