NHS England has defended the appointment of former Addenbrooke's Hospital CEO professor Keith McNeil as chief clinical information officer, claiming that McNeil beat a number of other good candidates in a fiercely competitive recruitment process.
V3 suggested earlier today that the appointment of McNeil could be seen as the NHS rewarding failure in what seemed like a sketchy recruitment process.
McNeil resigned from his post as CEO of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Addenbrooke's Hospital, in September 2015 just before the publication of a damning report by the Care Quality Commission.
The trust was subsequently put onto 'special measures' by health regulator Monitor after overspending by an average of £1.2m a week, in part due to a new £200m online patient record system from US supplier Epic which was fraught with problems.
But an NHS England spokesman staunchly defended the appointment. "Dr McNeil is an internationally respected specialist, and the electronic record system at Addenbrooke's is now one of the best in the NHS," he told V3.
"This post was filled following advertisement and open competition, and Dr McNeil beat a number of other candidates."
NHS England emphasised that, at the time of McNeil's resignation, patient outcomes at the trust were among the best in the UK and Europe, and that the bad rating awarded by the Care Quality Commission was largely owing to difficulties in recruiting nursing staff and the considerable demand for emergency services at the hospital.
It added that many of the doctors at the trust had lobbied for McNeil's return after his resignation, which suggested that not all were unhappy with how the trust was run under his leadership.
Dr Bob Wachter, who has launched a review of computer systems across the NHS, said that McNeil understood why transformation is necessary, and how to make it happen.
"He 'gets' the necessity of clinical engagement and the real-world complexities of technology adoption. The journey may not always be smooth, but the electronic record system at Addenbrooke's is now one of the best in the NHS, a real example of how technology can improve outcomes for patients," he said.
"I was particularly taken by Addenbrooke's emphasis on the importance of the human-technology interface. Getting this right is absolutely critical to achieving technology's full potential."
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