The newly elected chairs of the Digital Health Networks Advisory Panel have shared their priorities and aspirations for the future.

In a keynote session on the first day of Digital Health Virtual Summer School 2021 (VSS) Network chairs Sarah Hanbridge, Lisa Emery, and Dr James Reed said they were keen to work together to build the Networks voice at a national level.

Emery, who is the new chair of the chief information officer (CIO) Network, told the audience she wants to build on the Network’s strength to be a “go-to and trusted advisor” in shaping digital health policy.

“What’s been coming through strongly for me are themes around professionalising ourselves and around building and improving our influence – we’ve done a lot so far but how do we keep the Networks relevant or make them more so?,” she said.

“We’ve got massively exciting times ahead, I know we say it a lot but now is the time for digital, we’ve had huge leaps in the last year or two and I really want us to build on that.

“We need to become the absolute go-to place for trusted advice on this.”

Emery, who also participated in the morning’s panel discussion on diversity with the Shuri Network, added it would be “remiss” of her not to include representation in her aims with the Network.

“The CIO Network isn’t quite as diverse overall as it could be and I think, for me, looking across the three Networks we’ve got a brilliant range of diverse opinion to draw on and I want to make absolutely sure that we work together to make sure we have representation of all points of view,” she added.

Hanbridge, the newly elected chair of the chief nursing information officer (CNIO) Network, echoed similar visions on unity and leadership.

“For me it’s about us getting to know each other as a newly developed CNIO network and building on those relationships as an advisory panel,” she said.

“And representing the perspective from the frontline… working closely with the national digital leaders, especially Natasha Phillips [NHSX CNIO] and Jo Dickson [NHS Digital’s chief nurse].”

Hanbridge also said she wants to focus on building relationships across the CIO and CCIO Networks and learn from them.

“It’s about how we can collaboratively work together and lead as a profession and really change the nursing and AHP [allied health professional] voice,” she said.

Reed, who is the only re-elected chair, spoke of his experience as a member of the Digital Health Networks and the impact it can have on local and national policy direction.

“We’re at a point now where what we do over the next few years is going to determine the shape of the Networks for the next 10 years or so, we’ve been on quite a journey.

“As a group of people and as a body of professionals working in this area, we’ve clearly got stuff we need to say, and we have an opportunity to say it and people are listening.

“That’s something been hard to achieve so far but now is our chance to really cement it.”

Circling back to Emery’s point on professionalisation of the workforce in digital health, Reed added it was important that technology in organisations didn’t only fall on the IT department.

“We need to be promoting the message that there’s work to be done here [in digital health] and we need good people to do it,” he said.

Emery, Hanbridge and Reed were named chairs of the Digital Health Network Advisory Panels last week after a hotly contested Networks’ election.

Their role is to represent and speak on behalf of members nationally for the next two years.

This year saw a record number of Network members vote for who they’d like to represent them on the Network Advisory Panels.

Twelve NHS digital leaders have been elected for a two-year term to each Advisory Panel, with the successful candidates comprising a diverse range of some of the most senior local NHS IT leaders coming from all parts of the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

You can see who was elected to each Advisory Panel here.

The Digital Health Summer School 2021 is taking place on July 15 and 16. The free virtual event is exclusive to NHS and Public sector members of the Digital Health Networks only.

Register here.

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