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NHS Digital’s first CISO resigns just months after joining

NHS Digital’s first chief information security officer, Robert Coles, has resigned less than four months after starting the role.

Coles joined the arms-length agency on 1 October last year, but in an email shared with staff this week, it was announced he would be leaving due to personal reasons.

The message, penned by deputy chief executive Rob Shaw and seen by NS Tech, stated that Coles “has notified us of his intention to leave NHS Digital, due to personal reasons which mean that he is no longer able to continue in his role”.

Coles had been tasked with developing the NHS’s system-wide cyber strategy following the WannaCry attack in May 2017, which forced doctors to cancel 19,000 appointments and operations, and cost the health service £92m.

The veteran cyber security expert is now planning a return to consultacy work. Coles worked as an independent contractor before joining NHS Digital, and previously served as CISO at Meryl Lynch, GSK and the National Grid.

“I am very sorry not to be able to continue in my role at NHS Digital,” Coles said in a statement shared with staff. “I have enjoyed working with the very talented and passionate cyber security team at NHS Digital and seeing the commitment to improving cyber resilience across the health and care system. I wish everyone involved in building greater cyber resilience in the NHS the very best as they take this critical work forward.”

Shaw said the organisation would “start recruitment for Robert’s replacement immediately”, but it may take some time for the organisation to appoint a successor. It began searching for its first CISO in July 2017, but did not announce Coles’s appointment until over a year later.

“We are confident that our strong team of experts under Dan Taylor’s leadership can continue to deliver services as we recruit to this role,” added Shaw. “We have managed to recruit some really high quality resources within the team with a mixture of permanent staff and delivery partners and aim to continue to build on that solid foundation in this crucial area.”