Job hunters take note – the top digital job in the NHS is now up for grabs. NHS England has announced it is looking for a new chief information and technology officer (CI&TO) to take the reins. The candidate will be responsible for leading the NHS’ push towards digital by default and supporting NHS Trusts with implementing technology into their day-to-day operations. This can include anything from the use of data analytics to get the most out of digital patient records, to smart technology that monitors patient conditions, to going ‘paperless’ – a goal which the NHS has set for 2018.

However, the drive for digital is not without its challenges, some of which are particularly high-profile, such as the troubled care data programme. Moreover, procuring IT solutions in an organisation as large and complex as the NHS is far from easy, and there is often a gap between the ‘wants’ or senior managers, and the ‘needs’ of front-line clinicians and practitioners. Indeed, management and procurement is divided among no less than 60 different commissioning groups, each with their own budget.

The NHS serves a population of over 64 million people throughout the UK and deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. It is one of the world’s largest public sector initiatives, and as such, the challenges it faces in preparing a coherent digital strategy are understandable. But overcoming the challenges around embracing digitisation is essential, as there remains a clear demand among the general public for greater use of technology within the NHS. In fact, 68% of British citizens think the NHS could and should use technology more to increase efficiency, improve patient outcomes and improve the patient experience, according to recent Trustmarque research.

So the job of achieving ‘digital by default’ across the NHS is by no means straightforward, and the new CI&TO will face a serious challenge. But the benefits of digitisation speak for themselves – from business intelligence dashboards used by NHS Western Isles health board to analyse and respond to challenges in real-time, to digitised patient records leading to improved patient care and quicker response times in Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust – the greater use of technology in the NHS has the potential to vastly increase successful patient outcomes. That NHS England has spread the word of its new vacancy to a national audience demonstrates that for all the challenges involved, digital by default is one of the NHS’ top priorities.

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