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September 18, 2015

NHS digital chief Kelsey jumps ship for Australia

Tim Kelsey had been responsible for the much criticised programme.

By James Nunns

Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s digital chief, is set to leave the organisation.

Kelsey, who has been responsible for overseeing IT strategy, will be leaving in December to join Telstra Health in Australia as commercial director.

Telstra recently bought UK-based health informatics company Dr Foster Intelligence, with the link to Kelsey being that he co-founded the company in 2000.

Kelsey was appointed chair of the National Information Board in 2014, with this organisation leading the project to make the NHS paperless by 2020.

He will perhaps be remembered most though for the much criticised programme. The controversial programme has been aiming to extract anonymised patient data from GPs to put into a central database.

In June, the scheme was criticised during its restart in Blackburn over privacy concerns.

Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, a lobby group that opposes the move, said at the time: "It beggars belief that should be restarted before the serious outstanding problems with the scheme have been fixed and, just as importantly, been seen to be fixed.

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"The shambolic mess that has become must be cleared up before another single patient is contacted."

Further damning criticism came later that month from the Major Projects Authority, the authority labelled the project ‘unachievable’ in its annual report.

Despite the criticisms of one of the flagship projects, Kelsey, said: "Together we have made the case for a digitally enabled NHS in which patients are encouraged to participate. Over the past 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 fulfil 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."

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