The need for high-quality, timely information is greater than ever in the health service, as Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan explains

"High-quality, timely and relevant information has never been as important to frontline care as it is now," says Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan.

Mr Straughan, who was appointed to the role in December, believes the Information Centre has a key role to play in the future provision of health and social care as the country's population continues to grow and change.

"This means the care system must also evolve, not just to meet these demands, but to commission and deliver a level of service that both service providers and users can be proud of," he says.

"I passionately believe good, timely information is infinitely more useful to commissioners and providers than precise, out-of-date information. Relevant and timely information is fundamental to the planning and delivery of high-quality, outcomes-focused care."

Before his appointment, Mr Straughan joined the Information Centre as director of finance and corporate services. He became deputy chief executive in April 2005, before becoming acting chief executive in July 2007.

Supporting frontline staff

A qualified dentist with experience of working in general practice, hospital and community facilities, he is aware of the demands and expectations on frontline services. He also developed specialist knowledge of private finance initiatives and public private partnership through several years' work in Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust.

"If frontline managers are to make effective decisions and channel resources in the best way possible, they require information about need, expectation, outcome and satisfaction," he continues.

"The other key requirement decision-makers need is comparable information, so they can see how they are performing relative to their peers. This also fundamentally underpins our world class ambitions. The Information Centre therefore has an important role to play to agree common data and information definitions so we can always compare apples with apples."

Mr Straughan, who joined the Information Centre from NHS Estates, where he was acting chief executive, is also senior responsible officer for the Secondary Uses Service, which provides management information to the NHS.

He says: "I am excited to have been appointed chief executive of England's central, authoritative source of such information at a time when the demand and need for our services and is greater than ever."