A pharmaceutical industry IT professional has been appointed as chief executive of the NHS Information Authority.

The new chief, Nigel Bell, has been working as information systems and technology director for drug development with Astra, the Swedish-owned pharmaceuticals giant which is merging with Zeneca.

The Department of Health claims Bell 'has a strong track record in Astra leading strategic IT functions, and led systems and business process change projects in the UK and internationally'. But he apparently has no experience of working in the NHS.

The nomination followed the choice of Professor Alastair Bellingham as chair in March.

Several other board appointments were also announced: Rosemary Horwood, IT director at Barclaycard and a non-executive director at Northampton General Hospital trust; Jem Rashbass, a senior pathologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital and clinical director of biomedical computing at Cambridge University; Susanne Walley, an academic psychologist; and Lawrence Ijebor, managing director of the telecommunications and IT services company Procom Europe.