James Thomas is stepping down as Director of ICT at the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) from today. Thomas, number one in the 2013 CIO 100, is joining major integration and services vendor Atos to head its healthcare consulting division in the UK and Ireland.
"I'm not leaving healthcare, yes I am leaving the NHS," Thomas said yesterday in an interview at the UCLH hospital in central London. Thomas is clearly excited about the continued opportunity to drive transformation in healthcare and believes working for a key supplier is the best way to enable change in the UK's beleaguered public sector healthcare sector, which is experiencing record waiting time levels and where close to three quarters of NHS trusts are in a poor financial state.
"The buzz out there in the market place is really interesting. I'm convinced that health as a service will become agnostic of the facility. The building will be insignificant and it will become like a Regus office. I think we are stuck at a point where we prioritise mortar over clicks in healthcare.
"Atos have significant managed services, outsourcing, cloud, infrastructure and analytics technology," he says of the primary supplier to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games. "They have done a lot of business change, but it's not brought its technology to bare at a trust level. Atos helped British Airways mitigate against the winter pressures at Gatwick airport, that is completely relevant to healthcare.
"I love doing the CIO role and I'm not ruling out doing another CIO role. I chose to be in health and that is a really big tie for me. There is not the roles in health that give the opportunities I want to take up," he says of his unbridled passion for change in healthcare.
"There are mid to back-of-the-pack trusts that could redefine health if they are brave and digital channels are the way to do that," he said.
Thomas has been CIO at UCLH for eight years, a period he says has gone in the blink of an eye. In that period UCLH has built two new hospitals and grown by 10% year on year. The Macmillan Cancer hospital and the Learning Hospital are Thomas' proudest achievements, along with his ICT team at UCLH.
"One of the challenges in healthcare is the relationship with the vendors. NHS England says it needs a strong technology market base. The vendor community has been totally opportunistic, now it has to be about the supplier market being involved in the professionalism of healthcare. That's all part of being a more sustainable business."
Thomas will be succeeded by David Hill who has been head of business solutions at UCLH for the last two years.