NHS Digital to appoint ‘Robin Hood of data’ as interim chief medical officer

NHS Digital is to freshen its clinical leadership with the appointment of a champion of shared records and interoperability.

Digital Health News understands the national body is set to appoint Dr Amir Merkhar as its new interim chief medical officer.

Dr Merkhar is currently a clinical advisor for the agency, with a lead role on interoperability and promoting adoption of FHIR standards.

Notably, he is also the co-founder and co-chair of the INTEROPen standards group, a collaboration of suppliers and NHS bodies working on development and adoption of FHIR in the health service.

Dr Merkhar will be stepping down as clinical co-chair of the community to take on his new challenge at NHS Digital.

In a letter addressed to its members, INTEROPen confirmed that Dr Merkhar had been invited to take on the role by NHS Digital’s CEO, Sarah Wilkinson.

Dr Merkhar said: “This decision is harder for me than many may realise but it has been eased by the messages of support from board colleagues.

“And together we feel this also provides an opportunity for INTEROPen. It will be very difficult for me to let go, however. I feel that the board and the community have everything in their grasp to see through the next stage of the journey.

“I will still be there to champion INTEROPen’s culture and approach; after all interoperability has always been part of my DNA.”

Prior to joining NHS Digital Dr Merkhar worked as CCIO for Orion Health and was previously the high-profile CCIO of Hampshire Health Record, one of the longest established NHS shared records initiatives.

While at Hampshire Health Record Dr Merkhar described his mission as to become the self-styled “Robin Hood” of NHS data “taking data from the data rich and providing it to the data poor”.

Professor Martin Severs is the current chief medical officer at NHS Digital and has primarily focused on information governance.

NHS Digital have been approached for comment.

Adrian Byrne, INTEROpen board member and chair of the Digital Health CIO network, said: “Absolutely thrilled that NHSD have managed to land Amir. He’s a real big fish. Seriously though I am sure they will benefit massively from his knowledge, determination, energy and spirit of fair play that runs through everything he does. Very pleased for him.”