Tim Kelsey, NHS England

Tim Kelsey is NHS England’s Director for Patients and Information.  A daunting title and brief, if ever there was one.  We were at The Kings Fund last night to enjoy one of Roy Lilley’s Health Chats.

(A point of conscience here.  Father Christmas visited at the end of the chat, and I was given a small bottle of Penderyn Whisky (award winning Welsh (yes) whisky, which was rather nice.  This in no way influenced my blog…)

Roy is one of the worlds best interviewers…(ok – I can stop now, any extra needs more bribery…)

Roy & Tim - afterwards, still friends!

Roy & Tim – afterwards, still friends!

Seriously, the chats do get under the skin.  Every one I have attended has given us the back story to the person who is siting being grilled and toasted by Roy.  It works, because what always floods out at some point is  both why they have achieved their position, and what created that passion in the first place.  And there is always a formative lesson or two in the background.

As an aside, we did have a technology input last night.  Helen Cherry is a deaf health professional was accompanied by a Stenographer, Orla Pearson who is a registered Speech-to-text reporter.  (see their web-site – www.mycleartext.com ). As Orla told me afterwards, one in 3 (wow) over 40’s will have some hearing impairment. One in 7 of the population have some hearing loss.

It was fascinating sitting two rows behind, and seeing the text come up on the lap top about one tenth of a second (literally) behind the interview.  If I missed anything, I found myself looking at the screen – it was that good and fast.  Even at the end when I chatted to the person with the disability (who was lip reading, but some things don’t work – like ‘sherry’ – talking about whisky again!) – so Orla just went back to her steno-graph (yes, like you’ve seen in Rumpole of the Bailey) and carried on.  There is always a way, isn’t there?  Fascinating, fantastic and a bit humbling.

The passion made it quite hard to transcribe at one point Tim spoke at 330 words per minute.  Here’s some of the highlights – as always, biased by my biases, not reportage (this is a cop out for me, Tim – as someone not journalist trained, unlike yourself…)

  • The time line is very ambitious.  By next April, you will be able to access your GP on line record.  You will be able to add, but not edit their side
  • 2018 – all Primary, Emergency and Urgent records will be available
  • Opt in versus opt out – going for opt in, otherwise uptake will be too low?
  • We spend a lot of the health spend on information and allied technology – about 4 or 5% – and need to sweat those assets more
  • We have to be sure there is never a compromising of the privacy of the data. (As an aside: when the Royal Mail was privatised, the private data on postcodes and who is where and what they do (I think) was sold too – despite Tim saying it shouldn’t.  It worries me that the privatization of some NHS services could make this data accessible dressed and disguised the grey area of research??)
  • (Tim said the law has been changed to make it illegal to attempt to re-identify anonymised data (not sodomised, as Roy said on Radio 5 Live…)
  • Our legacy systems – despite everything that has and hasn’t happened in NHS It projects – amke us the most advanced nation, digitally, in the world.  Who knew?

My favourtite quote was from Roy:  “His legacy is your dichotomy” No idea who he was talking about, but don’t you wish you had said that?

And last line to Tim: centred on Genomics, but applicable to his whole remit, I think:

“We are talking the future of mankind here.  With better data – getting the ethics and governance right – it is so important or we will be denying a better future to ourselves and our children”

Passion and vision.  You can’t fake that.  Thanks, both of you.

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