CIO for the Trust since 2015, Rachel Dunscombe has been Director of Digital for the broader NHS group since early 2017, with her attainment of global delivery exemplar status for the Salford Royal just one of a slew of outstanding achievements in the post. She is now showing just equal panache as chief executive officer of the NHS Digital Academy, to which she was appointed alongside her existing role.

As CEO of the academy she helped win its bid – in the face of fierce competition – for delivering postgraduate education to all senior digital leaders including clinicians in the NHS. The academy now has a certified postgrad diploma for which 300 candidates from digital health leads across the NHS are being recruited. The programme has been described as the "lighting of the touchpaper" that will expedite the skills and expertise needed to digitise health and care.

In her operational CIO role at Salford Royal Group, she has accelerated the global digital exemplar programme, providing enhanced clinical pathways, safety measures, app deployment, partnership with pharma on innovative research, and implementation of data sharing. All these initiatives have verified benefits, such as a 10% reduction in mortality after 100 days for strokes and a 73% reduction in the need to prescribe high-risk blood thinners.

Dunscombe's migration of Salford Royal's clinical systems to the cloud has allowed the data scientists she has recruited in the past year to start work on really large data sets. Her team have been analysing patient flows to determine interventions that can reduce hospital attendance and improve hospital flow. It has led to immediate changes in how Salford manages triage and acute patients.

The deployment of cloud and software storage has also allowed digital pathology to be extended into oncology – the images produced for Salford Royal alone fill 1 petabyte a year. Digital pathology has increased the speed and accuracy of cancer pathology diagnoses and enabled clinicians in multiple sites to view data that was once in one physical lab.

Possibly the icing on the cake has been the disruption of traditional models of care delivery through the implementation of telehealth in major services. Telehealth makes a major difference for patients – intestinal failure, for example, is a regional service, so some patients would not be able to keep their job if they had to travel to Manchester from, say, Cumbria once a month for an appointment. Telehealth allows tests to be accessed at home (on Internet of Things devices), and patients can have Skype appointments with their clinicians.

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