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Monday 27 September 2021
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Rachel Dunscombe

Rachel Dunscombe to lead NHS Digital Academy 

Salford Royal’s Director of Digital Rachel Dunscombe will lead a new, virtual academy, established to develop the talents of hundreds of the NHS’s digital leaders. 

Salford Royal is partnering with the Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the University of Edinburgh and Harvard Medical School on the NHS Digital Academy.

The Academy will provide virtual classes and residential learning for clinicians and health leaders who are involved in delivering ambitious programmes of digital innovation in the NHS. It is anticipated that around 300 candidates will pass through the NHS Digital Academy, each spending up to 12 months studying part-time.

Rachel will hold the Chief Executive Officer role with the Academy on a part-time basis, in addition to her role within the Salford Group. 

Rachel said: “I am so incredibly excited about the Academy and absolutely honoured to be leading it. I passionately believe that to make the improvements in patient care that we are striving towards, we need to safely digitise the NHS. By doing this, we would create significant improvements for both patients accessing NHS services and health professional working within it. For patients, the benefits could include online access to services, speedier diagnosis and the opportunity for patients including those with long-term conditions such as diabetes or cancer to monitor their health remotely. For health professionals, amongst many other advantages, smarter, better designed systems could simplify their working day making their practice more efficient while giving them more time with patients.

“Of course to do this, we need people with the digital skills and knowledge to drive forward this change management for transformation and the Academy will ensure we have this leadership at NHS organisations across the country.

“For Salford Royal and also Pennine Acute Trust too, as we work together as a Group of hospitals, it is wonderful to be involved in the Academy, in addition to already being a Global Centre of Digital Excellence.”  

The NHS Digital Academy, which also has Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham and Professor Aziz Sheikh OBE as Directors, was borne out of Professor Wachter’s review of technology in the NHS which highlighted the need to:

  • Develop a workforce of trained ‘clinician-informaticists’ at Trusts, and give them appropriate resources and authority
  • Strengthen and grow the CCIO field, others trained in clinical care and informatics, and health IT professionals more generally


Professor Wachter’s report also observed that there was “a lack of professionals – namely CCIOs and CIOs – that can drive forward the transformation agenda enabled by informatics and technology.”

The Academy will support the existing work underway via the Building a Digital Ready Workforce (BDRW) National Information Board (NIB) programme led by NHS Digital; and will be the first time there is a national structured development programme in change management/leadership and clinical informatics. The NHS Digital Academy will be working closely with the Federation of Informatics Professionals (Fed-IP) and the Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI).


Notes to Editors

For more information about the NHS Digital Academy please visit: https://www.england.nhs.uk/digitaltechnology/info-revolution/nhs-digital-academy/

The NHS Digital Academy was a key commitment in Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View: https://www.england.nhs.uk/five-year-forward-view/next-steps-on-the-nhs-five-year-forward-view/harnessing-technology-and-innovation/

For more information about the Wachter Review please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/using-information-technology-to-improve-the-nhs/making-it-work-harnessing-the-power-of-health-information-technology-to-improve-care-in-england