Rachel Dunscombe has been appointed chief executive of the NHS Digital Academy alongside her role as CIO of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

The new virtual centre is intended to train 300 NHS digital leaders over the next three years.

A consortium led by Imperial College, Edinburgh University and Salford Royal NHS FT, which includes links with Harvard University’s medical school, won the £4 million contract ahead of a joint bid by University College London and Manchester University.

Imperial will be its southern hub, with Salford Royal its centre in the north.

Dunscombe, who also serves as vice chair of the Health CIO Network, said: “I am so incredibly excited about the Academy and absolutely honoured to be leading it. I passionately believe that to make the improvements in patient care that we are striving towards, we need to safely digitise the NHS.

“Of course to do this, we need people with the digital skills and knowledge to drive forward this change management for transformation and the Academy will ensure we have this leadership at NHS organisations across the country.”

NHS

The training, which will be delivered through a combination of online and residential learning, will be targeted at NHS CCIOs and CIOs and equivalent roles. The initial priority will be digital leaders from the 16 hospital global digital exemplars (GDEs) and seven mental health GDEs.

Recruitment for the first cohort has already begun. Originally due to have begun in September, the first residential elements are now due to be delivered starting in 2018.

The NHS Digital Academy was a key recommendation of the 2016 Wachter review of technology in the NHS which called for investment in a workforce of trained CCIOs, ‘clinician-informaticists’ and to develop health IT professionals.

“There must be a major effort to place well-qualified clinicians with advanced informatics training in every trust,” it said.

“The Advisory Group estimates that an average sized trust needs at least five such individuals on staff.”

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