Imperial College London

First Digital Academy to train next generation of leaders to transform the NHS

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Concept image illustrates digital healthcare

Imperial's Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) is to lead in the training of 300 clinicians over three years.

A world-class team of clinicians, researchers and digital experts led by the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) at Imperial College London, is to develop the first NHS Digital Academy in partnership with NHS England, NHS Digital and Health Education England.

The Academy will train 300 Chief Clinical Information Officers (CCIOs), Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and aspirant digital leaders from NHS trusts across the country over three years.

The aim is to create a workforce with the professionalism, capability and capacity to lead the NHS to a new digital future. The NHS Digital Academy was announced by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State of Health, in September 2016.

The IGHI is a world leader in translating ground-breaking research into innovative evidence based digital health solutions, through the work of the Helix Centre, a collaboration between Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.

Helix Centre

IGHI's Helix Centre for Design in Healthcare.

 

It developed a transformational clinical task management system, helping to streamline care on the wards and detect early signs of clinical deterioration in hospital patients, which was taken forward in 2017 by a commercial partner. 

The IGHI will lead a consortium, including the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (ICHNT) with international strategic input from Harvard Medical School, with unrivalled expertise in blended learning, health informatics, leadership development and transformation programmes.

It will establish the NHS Digital Academy as a virtual organisation providing the premium international programme to train a new generation of informatics and digital leaders across the clinical and non-clinical spectrum.

Professor Darzi

Professor Darzi

The Academy’s Co-Directors are Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, and Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute for Population Health and Informatics. Rachel Dunscombe, Director of Digital for Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, a partner in the initiative, has been appointed the Academy’s Chief Executive.

The need for an NHS Digital Academy was identified in the independent report, “Making IT work: Harnessing the power of health information technology to improve care in England,” by Professor Bob Wachter, published in September 2016. 

The report said that creating a fully digitised NHS was vital to the NHS’s future but experience showed that “just installing computers” did not work. It called for a “major effort” to place well-qualified clinicians with advanced informatics training in every trust. “It is not just about the technology, it is about the people too,” it said.

We want to build a vibrant, self-sustaining community of inspired leaders who will drive NHS digital transformation.

– Professor Darzi

Director, Institute of Global Health Innovation

General practices in England, which began digitising in the 1980s, were nearly 100 per cent digital by the mid-2000s. By contrast, an ambitious programme to digitise secondary care – the National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT), launched in 2002 – was shut down in 2011, having mostly failed to achieve its goals.

The programme was criticised for being too centralised, for not engaging with trusts and with healthcare professionals, and for trying to accomplish too much too quickly.

As part of the new initiative, twelve-month, part-time courses will be provided by the NHS Digital Academy and delivered mainly online, with a residential component and a workplace project. They will cover issues including leadership and transformational change, public attitudes to the sharing of data, inter-operability of health systems, responding to user needs and artificial intelligence.

International showcase

Participants will be encouraged to showcase their work on an international stage at the World Innovation Summit for Health, held biannually in Doha, Qatar, organised by Qatar Foundation in conjunction with the IGHI.

At the end of the contract, IGHI has a clear strategy to ensure the NHS Digital Academy will be sustainable by moving to a fee-based model with industry sponsorships and international fellowships. Alumni will receive ongoing support, forging strong connections with an elite network of digital leaders.

The NHS Digital Academy will train and support the next generation of clinical and IT leaders to ensure that they have the skills, expertise and access to the foremost experts in the world.

– Professor Aziz Sheikh OBE

Co-Director, NHS Digital Academy

Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, Director of the IGHI who also leads the NIHR centre for Patient Safety and Translational Research said: “The NHS has an unhappy record on digitisation but we believe it is now ready to embrace the technological changes that are urgently required. We want to build a vibrant, self-sustaining community of inspired leaders who will drive NHS digital transformation. We have an unrivalled record of using academic rigour to translate ground-breaking research into digital health solutions and we have assembled a world-class team to develop the NHS Digital Academy. Our operational team and faculty are already in place and we have a clear plan to launch in Autumn. We will ensure participants graduate with an international outlook and network.”

Professor Aziz Sheikh OBE, Co-Director, NHS Digital Academy said: “Developments in digital capabilities and data science have and are continuing to transform many facets of our lives and it is crucial that these developments are now also harnessed to improve health care processes and patient experiences. The NHS Digital Academy will train and support the next generation of clinical and IT leaders to ensure that they have the skills, expertise and access to the foremost experts in the world to safely and securely use IT to support continuous improvements in the ways in which the NHS works and the care it delivers.”

Kevin Jarrold, Chief Information Officer for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative to develop a cohort of digital healthcare leaders who will drive digital transformation across the NHS for the benefit of patients and staff. This fits perfectly with our role as a Global Digital Exemplar and we have a tremendous amount of experience and learning to share. We have seen at our Trust the power of combining expertise in clinical care, change management, quality improvement and digital technology to transform delivery of care.”

This unique collaboration of partners will provide the system leadership needs highlighted by the Wachter review.

– Rachel Dunscombe

CEO of the Academy and Director of Digital for Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

Rachel Dunscombe CEO of the Academy and Director of Digital for Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust said “This is an amazing opportunity for us to act as a catalyst for the CIOs and CCIOs equipping them with the skills and leadership to safely digitise the NHS. I am delighted to be part of the Digital Academy and feel privileged to be able to be at the helm of accelerating the digital health profession. This unique collaboration of partners will provide the system leadership needs highlighted by the Wachter review”

 

Dr Ajay K. Singh, Senior Associate Dean for Global and Continuing Education at Harvard Medical School, said: “This collaboration provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with Imperial and the University of Edinburgh in safety, quality and health informatics education that's been developed at Harvard Medical School."

Reporter

Jo Seed

Jo Seed
Institute of Global Health Innovation

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Contact details

Email: press.office@imperial.ac.uk
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