Published: 13/06/2002, Volume II2, No.5809 Page 4 5

A global recruitment hunt is underway to find 'an individual of extraordinary talent and experience' to deliver the new NHS IT strategy .

Described as 'the biggest IT challenge in the world', the post of director general for the NHS IT programme was advertised just days before junior health minister Lord Hunt launched the final version of the strategy - revealed by HSJ last month - at a conference in Birmingham yesterday.

Recruitment consultants Barry Latchford Associates, who have been employed to carry out the search, described the programme as 'a bigger IT challenge than NASA'.

The new director general will work to Sir John Pattison, NHS director of research and development, who will in turn report to a ministerial taskforce chaired by Lord Hunt.

They will work with the Information Policy Unit and the NHS Information Authority - a relationship which HSJ sources described as 'crucial'.

HSJ understands that at least two senior IT figures already approached have expressed concern over whether the role would give them direct control over the NHSIA and the IPU.

Barry Latchford Associates, who specialise in technology postings, are currently approaching senior figures in IT, the NHS and local authorities.

Senior partner Barry Latchford told HSJ: 'This has to be one of the highest-profile IT jobs in the world. The number of people worldwide capable of doing it runs to tens rather than hundreds.'

The appointment will be a civil service post and the maximum salary on offer will be£245,000 - equivalent to a permanent secretary's. But Mr Latchford said: 'Whoever comes to do this job will not be doing it for the money.'

Given the NHS's poor record on IT, private sector candidates may be seen as a more attractive option.

And HSJ sources said the difficult climate in private sector IT and finance recruitment meant that high-quality candidates from the field might be tempted by the public sector role, even if it meant a pay cut.

The strategy: a vision for the future 'Health managers with access to reliable accurate data - both financial and clinical - helping them plan the workforce and allocate scarce resources.'

This is the vision set out in Delivering 21st Century IT Support For The NHS , due to be launched yesterday by health minister Lord Hunt. In a bid to leave behind the rather sorry history of NHS IT implementation, the government has opted for greater central control, promising 'ruthless standardisation'and partnership with industry.

Acute trusts and PCTs will be offered rewards for moving forward with IT - and penalised for lagging behind.Social care and NHS developments will run in parallel so the two are integrated.

Under the strategy, all strategic health authorities will have to appoint a chief information officer to oversee regional implementation of the strategy, while PCTs and trusts must recruit project staff locally.

www. doh. gov. uk