Health Service Focus


Creating a world-class health informatics workforce

Source: NHE May/Jun 17

Dr Harpreet Sood, associate chief clinical information officer (CCIO) at NHS England and lead on NHS Digital Academy, gives an update on the progress of the Academy and its aims.

At last year’s NHS Expo, following the release of Dr Robert Wachter’s ‘Making IT Work Harnessing the Power of Health Information Technology to Improve Care in England’ report, it was announced that an NHS Digital Academy would be set up, “to help train NHS professionals in the key skills they need to deliver digital healthcare”. 

During e-Health Week 2017, Dr Harpreet Sood, associate CCIO at NHS England, told delegates that plans to create the virtual organisation, which will provide a unique training and development opportunity for CCIOs, chief information officers and aspirant leaders across the country, were well underway. 

In fact, subject to the procurement process for a delivery partner(s) after having received a number of ‘strong bids’, the Digital Academy is expected to be launched towards the end of September. The first cohort, according to Dr Sood, will include 50 leaders from Global Digital Exemplars and their fast followers. 

“Our first cohort will start in September, and we will have two cohorts of 50 people per year going through the programme,” he said. “We want to use this a starting point to evolve, iterate and improve. We want to develop clarity of the pathway.” 

In the ‘Making IT Work’ document, Dr Wachter identified that “the dearth of professional, well-supported CCIOs with appropriate authority and resources is an enormous obstacle to successful deployment and benefits realisation of health IT at trust level”.

To rectify this gap, he added, not only will there need to be satisfying, sustainable positions available to CCIOs in trusts, but the CCIO field itself must be strengthened and grown. 

Echoing this, Dr Sood said that a recent CCIO Network survey revealed that 76% of respondents don’t believe the NHS has enough trained clinicians in health IT/informatics. 

“We don’t have a clear pathway. We have pockets of excellence, but people have built piecemeal careers on their own backs,” he said. “We need to invest in our workforce.  We also need to raise our standards and become more professional and organised and provide an attractive proposition for those that want to stay in the system.” 

He added that the Academy’s objective was simple: it wants to create a world-class programme that recognises the leaders who can drive technology advances and informatics. The Academy will also support existing work underway via the Building a Digital Ready Workforce (BDRW) National Information Board (NIB) programme. 

“The NHS and the Academy also need to aspire to the level of excellence and attract international mentors, who can advise the system on how to enable this transformation,” said Dr Sood. 

“The important thing to take away is that you wouldn’t hire a surgeon without the appropriate surgical training, we would never hire a finance director without accountancy training, so why would we hire an informatician without proper informatics training? 

“The important thing is we need to take this from the side lines to the frontline, and really make this mainstream, and make it part of core business.” 

Further informatics development 

During e-Health Week, the Federation for Informatics Professionals in Health and Social Care (Fed-IP) also launched the Well Connected campaign. 

David Evans, director of policy and community at BCS, launching the campaign, said: “Technology has an immense and profound impact on health and wellbeing. The creation of the Well Connected campaign marks an exciting time for health informatics and addresses the societal need for better health and care. 

“It brings together and aims to inspire the professionals who can harness technology to put people and their communities first. We’re bringing together people with shared values, and empowering individuals to take ownership as a community of professionals which will attract new generations into the profession. 

“This is their campaign, and we know that the best is only possible when we come together to put our citizens and communities first.” 



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