Cleveland Henry has become the latest in a series of high-profile government tech leaders to move into the private sector, having left NHS Digital for UKCloud.
Henry, who led the rollout of NHSmail and NHS Choices during a six-year stint in the civil service, was appointed director of cloud at UKCloud’s healthcare division last month.
Speaking to NS Tech, Henry said he chose the public sector cloud-computing provider’s offer over approaches from a health-tech startup and one of the US tech giants because he was more drawn to the organisation’s ethos.
“I remain really passionate about driving transformation and making change happen,” he said. “The values behind UKCloud relate to that.”
Over summer, Liam Maxwell – the government’s tech advisor – announced he was leaving Whitehall to join Amazon Web Services. Just weeks later, Mayank Prakash – the Department for Work and Pension’s chief digital officer, also revealed that he would be moving to a role outside of the civil service.
While Henry said the prospect of securing a larger pay packet did not play a big part in his decision, he acknowledged that the public sector is struggling to compete with tech firms when it comes to remuneration.
“If you look across the NHS and public sector, there are some people with great experience and knowledge – but the government is struggling to compete [on pay] with the business world,” he said. “That is a worry.”
In Henry’s last role, one of his responsibilities was identifying new technology that could transform the delivery of NHS healthcare. He said there were great pockets of innovation in the health service but that it had been difficult to scale them nationally.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, unveiled plans in October to make the NHS the most advanced health service in the world. Henry welcomed Hancock’s intervention, but said what he is proposing “is not rocket science”. “His vision makes sense,” Henry added. “But the challenge I have on his vision is how do you get there with health?we now have to really talk serious about delivering it.”
Referring to Hancock’s controversial endorsement of Babylon’s GP at Hand app, Henry added: “Babylon-style services will be the future of GP access. Will it be Babylon? I don’t know. He has to be careful about endorsing a particular product. I also think he has to be really careful in not portraying technology as a silver bullet.”