Hospital trusts “need” chief information officers on their boards and should treat IT as a leadership function instead of back office one, a senior Department of Health mandarin has said.

The department’s director general of innovation, growth and technology, Will Cavendish, told the EHI Live 2014 conference that hospitals had failed to give IT the priority it warranted for far too long.

Addressing the conference in Birmingham yesterday, Mr Cavendish said: “IT and technology has been treated as a back office function. And it isn’t. It’s a leadership function.

“It’s a function which is about change and transformation.

Doctor using laptop

CIOs should be part of the decision making about transformation of care, said Will Cavendish

“And we need chief technologists and chief information officers on our boards [and] part of the decision making about transformation of care, not about the investment in kit. About how decisions are made, not about an email system. That is not common across our health and social care service.”

Mr Cavendish’s comments come just a week before a key report on information and technology strategy across the DH and its arm’s length bodies is due to be published.

The National Information Board, the new group in charge of IT and information policy across the DH, NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre is due to publish its strategy document on 13 November.

Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s director of strategic systems and technology, told the conference the winning bids from the £260m integrated digital care fund, could be announced this week but that the allocations still needed Treasury clearance.