Tim Kelsey, one of NHS England’s most high profile board members, is leaving the organisation to take a new job in Australia.
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Mr Kelsey will leave his role as national director for patients and information in December.
He is joining Telstra Health, a division of Australian telecommunications provider Telstra Corp, which develops digital and mobile health products, as a commercial director. The move follows Telstra’s acquisition in March of Dr Foster Intelligence – the UK based health informatics company Mr Kelsey co-founded in 2000.
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The departure leaves NHS England recruiting for a number of key responsibilities. National commissioning operations director Dame Barbara Hakin is retiring in December, and the organisation is also recruiting for a new specialised commissioning lead.
When Mr Kelsey took up his role in 2012, he was charged with developing plans for a digital and paperless NHS, a task viewed by some as a poisoned chalice following the NHS’s disastrous National Programme for IT.
He was the key architect of last November’s policy document, Personalised Health and Care 2020, a blueprint for the NHS’s digital programme. The success or otherwise of the NHS’s digital push will arguably play a major role in how viable a free at the point of use NHS is in future years, as it strives to find an estimated £22bn of annual efficiency savings by 2020.
Flagship policies overseen by Mr Kelsey, such as the friends and family test and the Care.data programme, divided opinion among both the public and NHS staff, and established Mr Kelsey as one of NHS England’s most prominent figures.
The former Cabinet Office transparency tsar’s departure raises questions over who will lead the NHS’s technology and informatics policy, responsibility for which sits across NHS England, the Department for Health and the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
Mr Kelsey said: “It has been an enormous privilege to work with such talented and committed colleagues at NHS England and across the wider health and care service.
“Together we have made the case for a digitally enabled NHS in which patients are encouraged to participate. Over the last three years we have made significant progress on turning that aspiration into reality.
“The decision to leave has been one of the hardest I’ve made but I’m going to fulfill an ambition that will come as no surprise to those who know me well – to develop next generation digital services for patients and professionals that I hope will help all of us take more control of our health and care.
“New technologies, particularly the advent of genomics and personalised medicine, offer unprecedented opportunity to transform health outcomes.”
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Over the past three years Tim has brought his infectious energy and creative expertise to the vital drive for open, transparent and technology enabled health services.
“It’s no surprise that other countries now want to emulate that success, so as the NHS moves into the implementation phase of the strategy Tim has helped craft, we wish him every success as he shifts gear to working in Australia and internationally.”
An NHS England statement added: “He will then also observe the customary six month ‘cooling off period’ until 1 July 2016 before engaging in any business activity with the NHS.”