Exclusive: New NHS national digital chief revealed

The Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust consultant will replace Keith McNeil, who resigned last year to return to Australia, in a role shared across NHS England and NHS Improvement.

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Dr. Eccles is only the second person to hold the position which was established in 2016 in response to Professor Bob Wachter’s review of NHS IT. He will chair the national information board and report to NHS England national director for operations and information Matthew Swindells.

He is also NHS England’s urgent and emergency care clinical director for London and previously worked for the Department of Health and Social Care as the lead for the NHS mail system.

He has previously held several senior national technology roles, including as clinical director for NHS Connecting for Health programme.

An advert for the job, published in October, said the successful candidate would oversee: the implementation of Personalised Health and Care 2020 on behalf of the health and care system, including direct oversight of the £4bn NHS technology investment allocated for the next three years”.

Dr. Eccles said: “I look forward to working with all the teams across the Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Improvement and NHS Digital as we use data and digital technology to improve patient care and the efficiency of its delivery.”

Mr. Swindells said: “Simon was a fantastic candidate in a very strong field and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the IT agenda and the challenges being faced, together with great clinical experience from the frontline as an emergency medicine consultant.”

Chairman of the digital and technology committee of the NHS Improvement board, Sigurd Reinton, said: “Simon… [brings] a deep clinical understanding as a practicing consultant in emergency medicine of the benefits to be had from the more effective use of data.

“This is allied to a particularly good knowledge and understanding of the practical and political challenges in this area, gained through a deep involvement over many years of work to make effective use of data in the NHS a reality.

“This is a joint appointment between NHS England and NHS Improvement and is a tangible example of the intention for both to work much more closely together, and with NHS Digital, to harness the power of data to improve patient care while keeping costs to taxpayers to an acceptable level.”

NHS Digital chair Noel Gordon, who is also an NHS England non-executive director, said: “Simon is a hugely welcome addition to the board of NHS Digital in his capacity as CCIO.

“He brings an outstanding breadth of clinical experience and deep knowledge of the power of informatics to help the NHS become digitally enabled and to help patients use innovative technologies to transform health and care.”

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