NHS England’s Tim Kelsey is stepping down from his role as national director for patients and information to take up post as commercial director at Australian health company Telstra Health.
Kelsey – who will leave his role in December – joined NHS England in 2012 after a stint as executive director of transparency and open data at the Cabinet Office.
Since then, Kelsey has been responsible for the organisation's data strategy, heading up the ambitious care.data programme, which aims to improve health outcomes by connecting GP data with hospital admissions and other patient information.
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The programme has faced a number of setbacks, however, with the Major Projects Authority giving the project a "red" rating in June. According to NHS England, a subsequent review has upgraded that to "amber/red" status. As revealed in an in-depth feature on the programme in the latest Civil Service World, NHS England is to delay the launch of the pathfinder projects until next year, despite originally planning to begin them this autumn.
Although the handling of the programme – first announced in 2013 – has been criticised, Kelsey has defended the project, telling MPs last year that care.data was about “saving lives”.
He told the health select committee: “Our ignorance of what happens to people outside hospitals is one of the key reasons why, at the moment, sadly, England has one of the lowest cancer survival rates in Europe. Care.data is not just about research. Care.data is also about genuinely saving lives in the NHS.”
In a statement on his departure, Kelsey said the decision to move on was one of the “hardest” he had made, but added that he was looking forward to the opportunity to develop “next generation digital services” at Telstra.
He said: “It has been an enormous privilege to work with such talented and committed colleagues at NHS England and across the wider health and care service. Together we have made the case for a digitally-enabled NHS in which patients are encouraged to participate. Over the last three years we have made significant progress on turning that aspiration into reality."
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Over the past three years Tim has brought his infectious energy and creative expertise to the vital drive for open, transparent and technology-enabled health services.
“It’s no surprise that other countries now want to emulate that success, so as the NHS moves into the implementation phase of the strategy Tim has helped craft, we wish him every success as he shifts gear to working in Australia and internationally.”