Niamh McKenna: ‘On being NHS Resolution CIO – 1 year on’

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By Niamh McKenna | 24 August 2021

Joining our Skills for Health board in April 2020, while in her 26th year at Accenture’s Health practice in the UK, before stepping into a new role as NHS Resolution’s inaugural Chief Information Officer (CIO) in August 2020, it’s been an extraordinary year of change for our Non-Executive Director and Trustee Niamh McKenna.

In Niamh’s true open-spiritedness and with a penchant for sharing her wisdom and thought-provoking insight with others, through both written and visual means, we have been fortunate enough to gain a peek into ‘Niamh’s World’ and be part of her journey. Here, in Niamh’s 4th and latest instalment in her ‘On being a CIO’ blog*, in celebration of her ‘1st NHS birthday’, we read of Niamh’s honest reflections and musings as she ends her first year at NHS Resolution and looks forward to her second.

“So it’s now a year since I made the move and joined NHS Resolution as their first CIO and my first role as a CIO so I thought I’d drop down a few reflections as I contemplate Year 2 ahead of me.

First and foremost, this has been a great year – I’ve learned a lot personally and professionally and I enjoy the job immensely. It was a big leap, so this was by no means assured and so being able to truthfully say “je ne regrette rien” is really great.

This past year has been a year of change. In the past 12 months, we’ve created a strategy and a “north star”, started lots of different projects, re-organised our directorate and run the largest technology procurement process the organisation has ever undertaken, to name but a few…all during a global pandemic!

But progress on a few projects has been slower than I’d have liked, all for valid reasons but still…In a way, I feel like I’m dragging the organisation along faster than it has ever been whilst simultaneously feeling I’m not doing things fast enough. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like the pace is right – maybe that’s just part of the challenge of being a CIO?

This year, I’ve enjoyed the chance to connect with other colleagues across the NHS, we’ve recently started a CIO/CDIO forum for those in the ALBs (Arm’s Length Bodies) of the NHS. It may be a bit of a cliché, but we are all on a similar journey and there’s much to be gained from hearing from others.

I’ve hugely benefited from the support I’ve had – from Mark Sutton at CQC to Darren Curry at NHSBSA, from Wendy Clark and Dan Jeffrey at NHSBT to Dean Freed and Alfie Harvey from NHSD to name but a few. All have been there to provide advice when I asked for help. I also started connecting to those outside the NHS, and this is something I definitely want to do more of in year 2 as I’m a fan of blending private and public sector best practice.

In terms of challenges, recruitment has been more of a challenge than I’d expected, and I suspect this will not change over the next year. As CIO, I am only as good as the team I have around me and I am absolutely persuaded that there are plenty of people out there who would love to work in our environment. We may not pay as well as the private sector but the opportunity to be part of something big and grow and learn in a supportive environment must appeal to many, particularly for those from different and diverse backgrounds? We are trying lots of different approaches – but I’d love to hear from others who have found a way to get their roles and opportunities in front of the right people.

So, to sum up, Year 1 was about laying the foundations – getting the strategy, organisation and plans in place for our transformation. Year 2 will be about getting the ball rolling – and as we all know, getting a good start is essential as it’s so hard to row back the further you go along.

I’ll always worry about whether I’ve made the right decisions, but I do trust the process that we’ve followed (which has been comprehensive) and the team we have in place to deliver (who are fab).

Buckle up folks – this is going to be fun!”

*This piece was first published on August 19 on Niamh’s LinkedIn blog, where you can connect and follow Niamh for more insight into her work.

Meet all of our board members here and connect and follow Niamh’s work on Twitter.

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