NHS Digital has appointed Home Office chief technology officer, Sarah Wilkinson, as its new CEO.
Wilkinson is currently the chief digital, data and technology officer at the Home Office.
She will join NHS Digital later this year, replacing interim CEO Rob Shaw, who has been holding the fort since Andy Williams retired at the end of March.
NHS Digital chair Noel Gordon welcomed Wilkinson to the team.
“Sarah brings vast experience of implementing complex technology projects, alongside a deep insight into bringing about positive change to a broad range of communities through digital delivery.”
Wilkinson joined the Home Office at the start of 2015 to lead transformation of the department’s IT capabilities.
Her previous background was of 20 years’ experience in the finance sector.
Wilkinson is excited about her new role, and spoke on the importance of digital technology in the future of the NHS.
“I am thrilled to be joining an organisation that has such a major role to play in supporting health and care organisations to provide preeminent services. Digital and technical capabilities and the fast-evolving market in platforms, software, devices and analytics, are transforming the ability of the medical profession to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases. To be asked to work at the forefront of delivering these capabilities is hugely exciting.”
The Home Office veteran also explained her motivation for moving into this new position.
“A major draw of the role is the opportunity to work with and alongside an incredibly talented team of medical practitioners, technologists and other specialists. It is a huge privilege to be asked to be part of this community.”
Shaw will continue as Interim CEO until Wilkinson joins NHS Digital later this year.
The exact date of Wilkinson’s role beginning has yet to be announced.
Wilkinson’s appointment directly from the Home Office is likely to raise concerns from privacy campaigners.
In February former NHS Digital chair, Kingsley Manning, said during his tenure the Home Office had wanted NHS Digital to hand over patient data for immigration enforcement action despite his concerns over legal basis of requests.
Manning said that the Home Office “put him under immense pressure” to share patient data despite concerns about the legality of such requests and worries that it would undermine NHS Digital’s reputation as “a safe haven” for personal data.
Such transfers had occurred dating back to 2005, but the scope was increased under a new memorandum of understanding, which came into force on 1 January, covering transfers of information between the NHS and Home Office.