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NHS chief mooted as UK's IT 'CIO'

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NHS IT chief Richard Granger is set for a new role as 'IT CIO' for the UK government, according to Computer Weekly. Granger is seen as having been highly successful in dealing with the NHS' IT renewal programme, and has a reputation for talking tough with suppliers. These skills are already being deployed to some extent outside the NHS, and sources close to the government have been floating him as the ideal candidate to bring some coherence to general IT procurement and strategy.

Currently the Office of Government Commerce and the Office of the E-Envoy both have some influence on IT, but the former is largely bogged down in pricing negotiations, neither having real influence nor giving direction on the projects themselves, while the latter was something of a duff dotcom era idea anyway, and has been pretty much a busted flush since it became apparent that Andrew Pinder would not be continuing as E-Envoy, and that the office itself was due for extensive revision. At the very least. Peter Gershon relinquished the reins at the OGC recently, and it does rather look like now would be a good time for the government to do something decisive.

Weekly quotes Granger at last month's Healthcare Computing conference as saying that the NHS procurement programme "set the standard against which the Office of Government Commerce is going to establish new contract terms and conditions, and procurement arrangements nationally." Which is possibly the polite way to put it. The OGC's efforts have been fairly limited in effect, because it doesn't directly control the tanks, and can merely arrange framework agreements which arms of government can choose to work within, or not. Granger, who does control the NHS tanks, did better than the OGC would have, and although he's presenting himself as having broken ground for the OGC, you could reasonably question which order the chicken and the egg came in.

Not that this matters greatly - the OGC is now working with the NHS to draw on the experience of the procurement programme, and it seems inevitable that this will result in central government taking a broader-based approach to procurement and strategy. This would surely require someone of Granger's experience to run it. The NHS is currently running a desktop trial in conjunction with Sun, and funnily enough, the OGC's framework agreement with Microsoft expires next year. Which could represent an interesting early challenge for Granger to deal with in a new, expanded role. ®

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