UCLH CIO James Thomas on negotiating regulatory scrutiny

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Creating value

UCLH hopes that the tools will enable them to “optimise the journeys through the hospital care these patients have”.

With a shift to managed services and by providing analytical support to the trust, the IT department has changed.

“We provide technical assurance and a programme office for the transformational agenda at UCLH. The operational world is commodity stuff, so let the experts manage that.”

Thomas has an IT budget of between £12m and £14m to cover IT, records management, telecommunications, governance, security and transformation.

NHS IT is keenly watched, so Thomas and the trust’s information governance team have written a five-year vision of what UCLH wants to do with IT.

“It is based on a set of scenarios for ­patients and nurses. We got sign-off for it and then we went away and worked out what that means as a roadmap for technology,” he says.


Thomas and UCLH certainly like to do things in their own fashion. As a result the hospital never became a wholesale part of the National Programme for IT founded by then NHS CIO Richard Granger.

“When I saw the National Programme I thought it was ill-conceived from the start,” says Thomas. “It asked people who had been in the NHS for 10 to 15 years what the future would be, and to create a system for the entire nation. You’d never do that in any other organisation.”

He does back some parts of the project. “At a national level the spine is a great concept and mental health has done well, they were the poor relative and at least they can now share resources,” he says.

Making a difference
Thomas entered the NHS after a personal encounter involving the health of one of his children – their pictures adorn his office alongside his pair of classic Mini Coopers. His son is fine now, but the regular contact with the NHS made Thomas realise it was an organisation that could really extract the benefits the IT offers organisations.

“I had been with Oracle and in IT leadership with utilities and oil firms as customer, supplier and back to customer. My world was about bonuses and all that and I wanted to do something to contribute.”

Although his six-year stint at UCLH has seen him implement major changes and strike deals that have reshaped perceptions of how the NHS can work with vendors, Thomas shows no sign of losing his public service ethos. One of his greatest pleasures is the high perception of UCLH among staff and patients alike.

“A lot of junior doctors come here for training and experience. When they leave, in the exit survey we as a hospital always get positive feedback,” he says.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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