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NHS IT loses its interim head

Third major exec to walk this year

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Mathew Swindells, the interim chief information officer for the NHS technology programme, has left the organisation to join a private sector consultancy.

Swindells replaced Richard Granger, the UK's highest paid civil servant, who was running the project. He left in January. Granger said at the time he was leaving because the job was "quite simply relentless". Richard Jeavons, the man in charge of service delivery for the project, left earlier this month.

The project threatens to be the world's largest ever public sector IT project. Provider Accenture withdrew from it in 2006 and another key partner, healthcare records provider iSoft, got stuck in a lengthy takeover battle before being bought by IBA in October 2007.

The £12bn project is already running late and has struggled to win the hearts and minds of healthcare professionals. The Public Accounts Committee chairman Edward Leigh last year said: "Urgent remedial action is needed at the highest level if the long-term interests of NHS patients and taxpayers are to be protected."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "Matthew Swindells will shortly leave the department at the end of his secondment from the NHS to take up an external appointment. This has been approved under the rules that govern the acceptance of outside appointments by civil servants, subject to certain conditions. In the meantime, the department is recruiting a Chief Information Officer, at Director General level, who will lead the development and delivery of the overall information strategy for the health and social care system."

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