The man in charge of NHS IT has stepped down after less than three months in the job.
Matthew Swindells, chief information officer for the Department of Health (DoH), was one of the key figures overseeing the National Programme for IT (NPfIT). Effectively the largest civilian IT project in world history, NPfIT is a massive upgrade of NHS IT systems.
Swindells only took the role at the end of January, following the resignation of Richard Granger as chief executive of Connecting for Health (CfH), the part of the NHS which runs NPfIT. It is understood that Swindells will be joining the Tribal Group health consultancy.
"Matthew Swindells will shortly leave the department... to take up an external appointment," read a statement from the Department of Health. "This has been approved under the rules that govern the acceptance of outside appointments by civil servants, subject to certain conditions."
Although Swindells was only appointed as an interim chief information officer, it appears that he decided to leave before a successor had been appointed. The DoH has claimed it is in the process of "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", but no date has been given for this hire.
Swindells's departure comes at a critical time for the project, as IT giant Fujitsu, one of the few remaining major systems integrators involved in NPfIT following the withdrawal of Accenture at the start of 2007, is currently renegotiating its contract with CfH.
NPfIT's former head, Granger, had negotiated notoriously tight, results-based contracts for the project, but industry sources have claimed that Fujitsu may now leave NPfIT if it is not allowed to make more money off the project than it has been making under its Granger-era contract.
Granger also opted for a relatively limited set of IT suppliers for NPfIT, but a new framework — dubbed "Additional Supply Capability and Capacity" (ASCC) — is in the process of broadening that field considerably.
Swindells is the second high-profile NHS IT figure to leave the project this month, following the announcement that Richard Jeavons, director of IT service implementation for CfH, is also to depart.