A week in the life of an NHS Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO)

Published on 01 August 2022, by Sarah Thompson

Pharmacy, Clinical informatics, Digital health leadership, Digital roles and career pathways

I’m Sarah Thompson, a Pharmacist and Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO) at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust in the north west. I’ve been specialised in a digital role for over 11 years now, an alumni of Cohort 1 of the NHS Digital Academy, and I’m very proud to be one of the first CCIOs with a Pharmacy background in the NHS.

I’m Sarah Thompson, a Pharmacist and Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO) at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust in the North West. I’ve been specialised in a digital role for over 11 years now, an alumni of Cohort 1 of the NHS Digital Academy, and I’m very proud to be one of the first CCIOs with a Pharmacy background in the NHS.

I have recently been sharing snippets of my #diaryofaCCIO via Twitter and thought a similar blog post would be useful to give a broader idea of what a typical week looks like in my role for anyone considering this career path. Get ready…it’s a busy one!

Monday

Working at home today as all of my meeting commitments are online. I enjoy the flexibility this provides and I’m proud of how our remote working digital team has embraced technology to connect and work together.

Mondays always commence with our Trust ‘Start the Week’ meeting. Updates on operational status, performance, upcoming priorities for the week ahead and any key messages for dissemination. This week I took the opportunity to promote our clinical portal go live.

Between meetings I’m managing my emails and dealing with queries, thankfully I’d planned some gaps between sessions today. Often days can be back-to-back meetings, but I’ve recently taken to managing my diary with a little more foresight to book in diary slots to catch up and keep on top of day-to-day requests.

We recently procured a Blood Tracking system, today saw the kick-off meeting to establish a core team for deployment. My role here is oversight of potential safety issues across systems e.g. where will patients observations be managed? Following introduction to the system and some initial queries one of our digital nursing team will stay on the project team to ensure a smooth transition.

As a Pharmacist, digital medicines management is an area of interest. Today included an update with our Chief Pharmacist to provide assurance around improving prescribing safety in the Emergency Department as well as plans for a major upgrade to our EPMA system.

Each Monday we also have a senior digital team debrief meeting from the Trust Executive Team meeting with our Director – this is a great way to ensure we maintain an up to date strategic understanding of the organisation.

Tuesday

Tuesdays are my 'meeting' days, a chance for staff 1:1's and team meetings. I manage a small multidisciplinary team of clinical informaticians from various backgrounds and career pathways. We are a lively group and work closely to be able to provide support and guidance but also some healthy challenge to each other.

Our Trust Incident Report Group is held in the afternoon. We maintain a digital presence on this group to ensure we're not only identifying where systems may have contributed to incidents but also proactively seeing where systems could support prevention of further issues/near misses. As CCIO this is a significant element of my role, but I couldn’t do it without the support of our wider team.

The day ends with receipt of a product alert notice from one of our system suppliers. Thankfully these are rare and on this occasion our team can demonstrate that the functionality affected is not in use in our system configuration. Working closely with system managers and our subject matter experts for this assurance is important, their expertise is essential for these situations.

Wednesday

The day starts with our Information Governance (IG) Security Group, a well-attended and busy virtual meeting, that I dial into from my office on site. I have intentionally aligned elements of my work with the IG team as there is crossover with my clinical safety case work and IG assurance documentation.

Today is an on-site day, which I always try to ensure involves some face-to-face work. I use today to visit our Emergency Department to discuss an upcoming system upgrade with our lead Consultant and visit the Acute Medical Unit to check in about some new equipment. I think it's important to be visible in this role, and I make every effort to continue regular clinical shifts to maintain my skillset and understand how systems are actually being used.

Our Digital Clinical Design Authority is over lunchtime, a chance to update our digitally engaged clinicians around recent achievements and upcoming plans. We have recently launched a clinical portal by our in-house development team that receives some great feedback. It's refreshing to hear the impact the system is having in reducing the login burden of multiple systems as well as improving safety with in-context patient launching from one search.

My 1:1 with our Trust Chief Information Officer (CIO) is in the afternoon, a chance to refocus on some key workstreams and escalate or discuss any issues.

A quick visit to catch up with our Assistant Chief Nurse to discuss some improvement work ends the day well with some positive news about the impact a system change has had on workflow out of hours.

Thursday

Medical Handover is the first topic of today, working with our Chief RCP Registrar to establish requirements to improve communication and handover of tasks. Some great ideas discussed, and our digital nursing team are taking these requirements to develop a detailed specification. We are really focussing on embracing principles of user centred design into new developments, and value the time our clinicians and system users give to feeding into this process.

Today is our inaugural Digital and Informatics Group, with the leaders from our senior digital teams providing status reports on key areas. It's important to have a view of what is happening across the digital teams and not be blinkered in our clinical systems work.

A supplier liaison call is next in the diary, some difficult discussions and issues to navigate but we have established relationships with our suppliers and work well to ensure a collaborative approach.

Thursday afternoon is a networking one, starting with the Faculty of Clinical Informatics (FCI) Digital Medicines Professional Interest Group. These networking opportunities are great to share best practice and lessons learned as well as make some new connections. I'm proud to have been nominated to represent the council of the FCI, and keen to see what impact I can have during my time on the council.

The day ends with me joining our CIO for a (rare, but welcome) face to face meet up with a neighbouring CIO and CCIO, though I do squeeze in a quick Teams call on my mobile from the car before I join the others. A great opportunity to share progress, current challenges and future plans.

A long drive home with lots of traffic, though frustrating, allows me to reflect on the week and switch off with a podcast before arriving home.

Friday

My CCIO hours are worked Monday to Thursday. Fridays are dramatically different days for me. This week spending a few hours at Chester Zoo with my little boy Bryn and some friends. I value the flexible working arrangement I have with my employer and my Friday time as 'Mum' keeps me balanced…though sometimes after a few hours with a 2-year-old I'm wondering if work would be easier!

A Reflection

I guess this week is a prime example of how varied this role is - no day or week is the same and it can be quite the juggle to manage priorities, but I thrive on this. I'm so grateful for the strong and skilled network of clinicians, digital teams and support services we have in place to ensure our clinical systems are facilitating delivery of safe and effective care

ST

Sarah Thompson

Chief Clinical Information Officer

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust


Sarah is a Pharmacist and CCIO at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust. Specialising in Clinical Informatics in 2011, Sarah has worked on both Trust and supplier side and following a number of years as the clinical lead for EPR & digital optimisation, was appointed as CCIO in 2021. Sarah is proud to be one of the first Pharmacist CCIO’s nationally, raising the profile at every opportunity. A passionate advocate for career development for the non-medical CCIO, Sarah is determined to see further representation from Pharmacy, AHP, Nursing and Midwifery colleagues nationally. Sarah studied as part of the first cohort of the NHS Digital Academy, going on to complete her MSc dissertation focussing on clinical engagement and was nominated by her peers to the FCI Council in 2022.

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