NHS Digital chief executive to step down

Sarah Wilkinson, the chief executive of NHS Digital, is to leave the organisation this summer.

In a statement released today, NHS Digital said Sarah has resigned as CEO of NHS Digital. The digital unit is now seeking an interim CEO for the months ahead, with a plan to run an open competition to recruit for the role on a permanent basis later in the year.

Sarah Wilkinson said: “It has been the privilege of my career to serve as Chief Executive of NHS Digital. It is an extraordinary organisation, with extraordinary people.

“For many years now we have made a substantial contribution to the health and care system. In 2020, as we responded so brilliantly to the pandemic, it is a source of pride and deep satisfaction to me that we were able to contribute so positively to the work of the NHS at such an unprecedented and nationally critical time.

“I believe there is a unique opportunity ahead for the digitisation of the system. As we emerge from the pandemic, the NHS has an appetite and a need for digitisation that is radically greater than it was in the period beforehand. As an organisation, NHS Digital is now confident and growing in its abilities, from designing and building new digital products and platforms, to managing clinical data at scale, to operating technology systems and services and defending against cyber-attacks.

“As the work associated with the pandemic starts to stabilise, and planning commences for the ambitious program of transformation over the next few years, I have come to the conclusion that it would be better for a new CEO to step into the role now so that they can provide continuous leadership over the programmes of that post-Covid agenda, and now is an appropriate time for me to leave the organisation. The new CEO will be able to build upon strong foundations in an organisation that knows what it can do, and I will work closely with them to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership for our programmes, products, and people.”

Laura Wade-Gery, Chair of the NHS Digital Board, said: “Sarah’s commitment to this organisation and unwavering and justifiable belief in its capabilities, people and potential has been clear from the moment I became Chair last year.

“Her leadership and deep technology expertise are unarguable, but I have been equally struck by her care for her people, even in the most challenging times. I am sorry to see Sarah move on, but I know that she leaves a confident organisation fully aware of what it can achieve as a legacy to her successors.”

Vice Chair and long-standing Board member Professor Sudhesh Kumar said: “Sarah has been a powerfully effective leader for NHS Digital over the last few years. The fact that she is recognised as one of the most influential leaders in digital and technology is a testament to all that she has delivered for health and care as well as her undoubted leadership qualities.”

Last month HTN covered a recent Q&A with Sarah Wilkinson, outling the achievements of the digital unit over the past year, and the opportunities ahead for digital transformation, particularly for population health management.