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NHSX names Sonia Patel as first CIO

The health service’s digital transformation unit, NHSX, has named Sonia Patel as its first chief information officer (CIO).

Patel will join the organisation this summer from her role as joint CIO of London North West University Healthcare Foundation Trust and The Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust.

In a tweet, she said: “Truly honoured to be the voice of the NHS CIO. Thanks to [NHS deputy CEO Simon Pickles] and [CEO Matthew Gould] for putting their trust and confidence in me to lead with NHSX and the digital community the tech and data vision for the NHS.”

Patel worked in the private sector from 2011-2017 and prior to that was head of solutions delivery at NHS Commissioning Support for London, and CIO of NHS Westminster.

NHSX officially launched in July last year under the instruction of the health secretary, Matt Hancock. In a blog published last week, Gould admitted that the organisation was unveiled “to a mixture of hope, scepticism, indifference and bemusement”.

The career civil servant, who previously worked with Hancock when he was digital and culture secretary, said the team at NHSX have been focused on “three main tasks – laying the foundations for a new approach; building capability; and doing all the things that we were doing before we created NHSX”.

In February the unit announced that David Hill, previously chief technology officer (CTO) of William Hill, would be joining as its first permanent CIO in May. Plans are also afoot to appoint chief digital and commercial officers, as well as a director of AI.

“I still want to avoid turning NHSX into a leviathan,” said Gould. “We needed to build expertise in a series of new areas to fulfil the role we’ve set ourselves, but we won’t grow bigger than we need to. And we are taking the time we need to find the right people, with the right skills and attitudes, to form a brilliant and diverse team, crucially including people with real experience at the NHS frontline, and deep tech and commercial skills.”

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