NHS Digital drafts in Test and Trace CIO as interim chief

Simon Bolton appointed at health-service tech agency after Sarah Wilkinson decides to step down
Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

By Sam Trendall

04 May 2021

The chief information officer of NHS Test and Trace, Simon Bolton, has been appointed as interim chief executive of NHS Digital.

Bolton, who will formally assume the role on 4 June, replaces Sarah Wilkinson, who is stepping down after four years in charge. In the meantime, the two will “work closely [together]… to ensure continuity of leadership and delivery”, NHS Digital said.

Bolton has been Test and Trace CIO since August 2020. Before that, he held senior technology posts at Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce. At the start of his career, Bolton spent 15 years with IT vendor HP.

“It is a privilege to join this organisation at such an important stage,” Bolton said. “The appetite for digitisation within the NHS presents a huge opportunity for all of us working in the health tech sector and my ambition is for NHS Digital to be at the forefront, driving innovation and developing solutions and new capabilities.

“What NHS Digital has achieved during the pandemic has been remarkable and I look forward to working alongside my new colleagues to continue to deliver for patients and the front line.”

Announcing her resignation in March, Wilkinson – who, prior to joining NHS Digital, spent 15 years in the financial services industry before serving as technology leader of the Home Office – also paid tribute to the work carried out during the coronavirus crisis.

“For many years now, we have made a substantial contribution to the health and care system,” she said. “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.”

Wilkinson added: “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.”

NHS Digital plans to launch an open recruitment process to find Wilkinson’s permanent successor later this year. 

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW’s sister title PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared

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