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NHS Digital CEO and former CIO named CDO of the year

Picture by Matt Gore iconphotomedia CIO Summit 2015
Sarah Wilkinson keynotes a CIO conference produced by the editor of the Horizon CIO pocast: Picture by Matt Gore iconphotomedia

Former CIO turned CEO Sarah Wilkinson has been awarded the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the year in the UK by the CDO club. Wilkinson was speaking at the organisation’s annual London Summit yesterday where she presented on Digitising the National Health Service.  

Wilkinson became CEO of the London and Leeds based NHS Digital in April 2017 and some claim it was a victory for the view that CIOs will become CEOs. In truth, Wilkinson follows a well trodden path of CIOs becoming CEOs of technology companies where a strong understanding of technology is crucial to being the most senior leader in the organisation. Other UK CIOs to become CEOs include former Barclays Bank CIO Anthony Watson and Clive Selley is now CEO of OpenReach, having been CIO of parent company BT.  There are some that mistake the appointment of Philip Clarke as CEO of Tesco, having been CIO, as an example of a CIO becoming CEO, but this is a mistake.

“Wilkinson has  made the strategic transition from CDO to CEO, and undertaken numerous Non-Executive Director roles, demonstrating the strategic value she provides to organisations and stakeholders in both the public and private sectors,” David Mathison, CEO of the CDO Club said in a statement regarding the accolade.

“Wilkinson has two decades of experience in running complex IT organisations in both the financial services sector and in government. As CEO of NHS Digital, she is now dedicated to spearheading digital transformation of their IT capabilities, and to modernising health and care to provide maximum value to patients and the public,” he said.

“I am very honoured to receive this accolade from the CDO Club,” Wilkinson said in a statement.  “It’s a huge privilege to be working in the digital, data, and technology space at such an incredibly exciting point in time. Digital has radically transformed many sectors since the start of the internet era, but in many sectors, including healthcare, the transformation still has a very long way to run. The next few years will be a time of accelerating digital transformation delivering incredible opportunities and benefits. I, and all my colleagues at NHS Digital, look forward to delivering these opportunities and benefits across the NHS.”

Wilkinson joined the Home Office in February 2015 just before a General Election and moved to NHS Digital last April just as the country was going to the polls again, leading to the disaster result for the Conservatives.  Prior to joining the public sector Wilkinson had been with Credit Suisse for two years as Head of Corporate Systems Technology and before that had held CIO roles at bankers UBS, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Brothers.

NHS Digital is a technology business, its role is to be the source of information, data and IT systems for Care Commissioning Groups (CCG) and clinicians through the operations and management of the NHS Spine infrastructure, the E-Referral Service for appointments, NHS Mail and NHS.UK, which was formerly known as NHS Choices.

The CDO Club has made it a mission to track the career path of CDOs to CEO and claims to have identified 100 CDO who have become CEO, President or Non-Executive Director since 2007.

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