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#CIO100 The 2019 edition…

Being part of the CIO100 has meant something to me every year that I have taken part, this year I didn’t make the event itself and it looks like it was a roaring success from the photos on social media and the WhatsApp commentary from so many of the CIOs that were there.

Being able to be part of a community of leaders every year that support each other, laughs at each other, finds ways to promote each other, shares stories and battle wounds with each other has been a great way to create a collegiate environment regardless of business area that the CIO works within. I think the key take away from the CIO100 celebration year on year is the similarities that the role brings ‘regardless’ of the business area that the CIO works within.

Its fascinating moving to a new organisation as a digital leader, no longer a CIO, but a member of the team with an interest and a remit in the key items of the CIO agenda I can see now how transferable the experiences of a CIO can be.

I remember reflecting on similar when I moved to Ireland, the way we described the issues faced by us every day delivering digital to healthcare in the UK were so similar to those described in Ireland and yet both sides of the Irish sea thought they were unique.

One piece of advice, if I am qualified to give advice, to all CIOs and aspiring CIOs, get out of the business bubble you may find yourself in, use events and groups like the CIO100 to learn about the challenges of other areas embarking on digital transformation and innovation in a business area. If you have an issue today, I will bet that either it has been solved at least once in a community like the 100 already or at the very least someone else in that group is going through the same issue.

The CIO100 is perhaps the greatest support group that a digital leader in the UK can be part of, a group I am proud to call ‘home’.

Well done to everyone in the list, looking forward to a year of connections, collaborations and having some fun.

… and perosnally from me, whilst I am no longer at Leeds teaching Hospitals Trust without the amazing team there my place would never be so in the CIO100, a huge thanks to all of the team for working with me for 12 months on the crazy journey we called #LeedsDigitalWay.

Super heroes each and everyone of you!


Prescribing art as a black dog beater…

What do we turn to when the black dog pops on to our shoulders?

So many people go to a song, a poem, a book; solace in the repetitive patterns of something comforting, something sad, something happy. Me, I always turned to musical melancholy or a trusted battered American novel, (Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo or The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb or The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach) a story that I know I could open on any page and dive right into the life of someone else for a short period of time, comforting time that takes you away and gives the brain chance to find a new synapse to fire, a new spark that will help me find a different path to go head down.

Music and literature and art; ‘THE’ arts, the saviour of many a dark mood, the difference between falling down the long and deep tunnel and being able to perform a U turn that puts you (me) back in the moment, able to make a difference and care completely about the world around me.

There is no cure to depression, there is no cure to being sad, we need a way to cope, to ‘be’ something else. Everyone needs their own recipe to happiness or at least to that momentary difference that you can build on, something repetitive to distract you, to give you enough time to breath.

Music after all is a series of repeating patterns of varying complexity; eight notes to the octave for mere mortals and that sudden leap to twelve notes per octave for the seriously darker genres of Country, Blues and Jazz. There is nothing really stopping the number of octaves other than the physicality of the instrument and therefore there could (indeed should) be a song for every mood of every person on earth. The ‘free bar’ of Apple Music and Spotify have made it so much more possible to find that musical moment that you need, although sometimes that now is overwhelming when there is one ‘thing’ you know you need.

I’m Richard and I am addicted to miserable music when I am low, Red House Painters, Nick Drake, Radiohead, Cat Power, Sun Kil Moon, Low, Mojave 3 crikey the list could go on, there once was a time when this was my music and only now when I look back do I realise why, my world now is full of richer brighter colours more often but the complexity of those songs and the mood they could change is never lost on me in 2019 or 1999 or 1989.

What can we rely on though, I know that a glass of red and Down Colourful Hill or Ocean Beach and a little bit of solitary time will normally stop me in my tracks and remind me of what I can do, what I am here to do, and that’s ok for me, but no one who has been there can really ever ‘prescribe’ their cure for the next person. I have only ever met one other person who would listen to Red House Painters at their worst for example, and he was a fanatic Red House Painters fan anyway!

The sheer size of the ‘medicinal’ arsenal available to us when we turn to literature holds even less bounds than music. There are 26 letters in the alphabet, five vowels and twenty one consonants, making up the books of the world, all 130 million of them, each book has an impact on someone, somewhere, sometime. Languages hold no bounds other than the learning required to make sense of them which simply adds more and more to the arrangement that is available to you.

Once it comes to words to create stories the world become less and less random. The art in creating with the twenty six letters of the alphabet, the five letters as vowels; A, E, I, O, and U and the remaining twenty one as the consonants never cease to prove the human capability to be ‘artful’. In The Science of Story Telling by Will Storr he opens with the comment,

We know how this ends. You’re going to die and so will everyone you love. And then there will be heat death. All the change in the universe will cease, the stars will die, and there’ll be nothing left of anything but infinite, dead, freezing void.

I think I mentioned already I love a bit of melancholy! His point though is the human ability to tell stories needs to be boundless to give us all a moment of hope for every single new day, hope is derived from thinking about what tomorrow brings, we need to be convinced that tomorrow is new and brings something different, after all we are not living in the Matrix (are we?).

In the same way as the jazz men of old decided to begin to count the black keys as notes in an octave in their own right when we speak the words of a story in the form of a poem or spoken word performance art we again hear something different. The letter Y is sometimes considered a sixth vowel by poets and spoken word artists because it can sound like other vowels. Unlike consonants, each of the vowel letters has more than one type of sound or can even be silent with no sound at all extending again the beauty and curative medicine contained in the written word. But, if we did adopt this principle whole heartedly it would ruin the Cheshire Cat’s song in Alice wouldn’t it, a true happines finding song if ever there could be one!

The story of the sixth vowel and the inclusion of the black notes in an octave should teach us that what we have in this world is ours to be manipulated, even the most steadfast rules can be bent to create a new normal, a new way to help each other and perhaps most importantly to give us new tools to help ourselves.

The reach we have to help each other should hold no bounds. But, we do need to remember that my prescription will not be the answer to the person sitting next to me and their ailment, and with depression, with Mental Health, all we can do is offer help in a consistent, reliable and honest manner.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s heaven for?

Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)

Writing, sharing from our own experiences in as honest and open manner as possible gives us an opportunity to achieve a different outcome I think. In recent times I know that my world has changed a lot and that as I head further into 2019 it is the most unknowable of years, with the support that I have built though I am convinced that I can make the unknowable more exciting than scary and I can avoid heading down melancholy hill. Knowing change and knowing the support you need to enable change to happen around you is one of the keys to life I think, a lesson for 2019 though is best taken from an Instagram poet;

“From stardust we must come

to stardust we go

this is for certain

the rest is”

#AYearInPoems #29 “Sometimes its good just to know how small you actually are.”


….and enjoy being that!



2018 Review of the Year.

For the sixth year running I get to put ‘pen to paper’ and create my review of the year. A look back at the stuff I have done, the places I have been, the things I have learnt, the sounds I have heard and the things I have seen.

It’s become a tradition that I look forward to every year, it helps clear out my mind and gets me ready for the next years experiences; a bit like a disc de-frag, the consolidation of the years experiences captured as a memory of the year, to look back on and remind myself of all the good stuff in moments of challenge and to generally put some context to what was happening when the world changes around you.

It has been a busy year (all the reviews say that though), it’s been an impactful year with changes to so many parts of the life we live. The origins of this blog were a review of the music I had heard, a way of ‘formalising’ my playlist of the year but over the last three years I have used it more and more to reflect on the year gone and prepare for the year ahead.

Travel has played a bigger part in 2018 than ever before, I have had chance to talk about my passion, digital transformation in healthcare, on three continents this year, the air miles really have stacked up. With three very different trips to the USA my obsession with the American Way hasn’t waned at all. To see the way politics is impacting on life to such a degree in the US right now is fascinating and to see it in a few different places showed me that there isn’t any part of America that is generic and to think of it as one whole is just unbelievably wrong.

The big holiday of the year was a road trip through Florida, arriving in Orlando first and being able to visit Harry Potter World in all its fabulous glory was amazing. Walking around in lovely sunshine and on the last day in Orlando taking a 7 second drop into a zoom the flume at Volcano Bay was not something I expected to enjoy as much as I did, what a great start to the adventure.

The next part though, picking up the Ford Mustang and heading off down the Florida Keys was spectacular. The drive itself, the views, the next hotel in Fort Lauderdale was just amazing. By chance ending up at American Social on a Sunday afternoon on Las Olas was an eye opener, Drake pumping out of the most amazing sound system and every customer rapping and bouncing along was amazing and then the bike ride back to the hotel which was an adventure too.

The drive to Miami then was the thing of dreams, roof top off the car and a slow drive in to the city. Perhaps a little clichéd that we (I) insisted on Kendrick and Drake as the accompanying soundtrack. Miami is now first on my list of American cities to revisit, an amazing experience walking around seeing what I think could well be the best shopping experience in the world, the art and architecture, the food, drink, sounds and people really made it feel very special. It’s a bustle city and yet you can find a peaceful spot somewhere with such ease to watch the world go by, not to mention one of the most awesome book shops I have ever been in; Books and Books.

Then back to earth with a bump, Las Vegas and the worlds largest health tech conference (HIMSS), the first of two visits to Las Vegas in 2018 proved to be an odd one, amazing food and the general Las Vegas experience was awesome as was seeing David Guetta at the Wynn but HIMSS itself felt like you were captured in a pin ball machine, just too big and too much at the end of the holiday to really cope with; although I did get chance to present as the MC for the conferences first International Stage and be a judge in the Canadian start-up of the year competition so perhaps need to reflect more favourably on the visit.

Particularly because two months later I got to have a return trip to Las Vegas for my little brothers stag do (bachelor party)! Pool parties, trips into the desert (in a Ford Mustang again) a zip line down the longest shopping mall in the world and shoe shopping in Tom Ford all highlights of a great occasion. Driving in the desert with a great friend with a play list built for the two of us was awesome, Hoover Dam, dust storms and the Grand Canyon were all highlights of the year, but getting time with my brother in such an extraordinary place meant the world to me.

Trips to Brussels, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Sitges, Seattle and many trips to London; time in Oxford and Birmingham; a wonderful weekend in Scarborough with some of the best friends we could ask for all made up more of the travel too. I think Barcelona is still my favourite city on earth though, even after experiencing so much this year. Being able to spend time in Sitges and experience a different type of Barcelona highlighted the way that the Catalonian lifestyle permeates everything that happens, the food, music and diversity of people never ceases to amaze me. The political backdrop in Barcelona continues to sway the city, the country and perhaps the whole of Europe a little but it is still the most beautiful place to be in the heart of.

Films and TV continued to take over a little in 2018 from going to see live music, is it an age thing or a lazy thing I am not sure but I think there has been some awesome movies out this year that I have thoroughly enjoyed, although I do still worry I live in Marvel Land a little too much:

1 – Quiet Place 6 – First Man
2 – BlacKkKKlansman 7 – Leave No Trace
3 – Avengers: Infinity War 8 – Ant-Man and the Wasp
4 – Baby Driver 9 – Mission Impossible: Fallout
5 – Black Panther 10 – Annihilation

The world of TV continues to change and evolve and bring a different type of entertainment to us all, the list of TV has to be a list that has come to me to be watched this year rather than simply being released this year;

1 – Big Little Lies 6 – First
2 – Sinner S1 7 – Bodyguard
3 – Handmaid’s Tale S1 8 – Sharp Objects
4 – Killing Eve 9 – Handmaid’s Tale S2
5 – Westworld S1 10 – Jessica Jones S2

When I look at this list though there is a lot of quite down and miserable TV in there, I need to find something cheerful and life affirming for 2019 to watch maybe, although there is something to be said for disappearing into a dark world and trying to work out where it will go next.

Every year new sounds, new styles and new artists come to the fore bringing a new listening pleasure for me. This year has seen some great album releases; George Fitzgerald (Both Albums), Maribou State, Honey Dijon, Everything is Recorded, Tycho, Rufus du Sol to list just a couple of recommendations, seeing Neneh Cherry (also she is in Leeds in February and puts on an awesome show if you can make the date!) back on the list is heart warming too, what an album that is.

The Dekmantel best of 2018 is also one I now can’t get off the speaker too. The list as a whole is a bit different, some slightly more downbeat stuff in some ways but the disco influence keeps coming out strong to keep it mostly a head nodding experience…

1 – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing (12” Mix) – Gloria Ann Taylor 17 – Leave A Light On – Tom Walker
2 – Look Ahead (Extended Mix) – Honey Dijon 18 – Roy Keane – Brame & Hamo
3 – Addison Lee – Not3s 19 – Water Baby – Tom Misch & Loyle Carner
4 – It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) – Peggy Gou 20 – At Night (Peggy Gou Remix) – Shakedown
5 – Young, Dumb & Broke – Khalid 21 – Turnmills (Club Mix) – Maribou State
6 – Half-Light (Night Version) – George Fitzgerald 22 – Shot Gun Shack – Neneh Cherry
7 – Bad Bad News – Leon Bridges 23 – In The Air – DMA’s
8 – Greasy Spoon – Sam Fender 24 – Horizon (Poolside Remix) – Tycho
9 – Techno Disco Tool – Mella Dee 25 – Girlfriend – Christine & the Queens
10 – Opal (Four Tet Remix) – Bicep 26 – Desert Night (Jesse Rose Mix) – Rufus Du Sol
11 – Everything Is Recorded – Everything Is Recorded 27 – Surprised By The Joy – Richard Ashcroft
12 – I Feel Joy (Feel The Spirit) – Nona Hendryx 28 – Beat 54 (Krystal Klear 12” Mix) – Jungle
13 – Vincent – James Blake 29 – Sincerity Is Scary – The 1975
14 – This Ain’t Freedom – Liife & Roland Clark 30 – Slow Disco (Piano Version) – St. Vincent
15 – Controller – Channel Tres 31 – Under the Moon – Claptone
16 – Perth (Dusky Remix) – KiNK 32 – Han Jan – Peggy Gou

Peggy Gou features three times in one list which shows the obsession with the music she has put out this year and the Gloria Ann Taylor song, whilst an old song, was such an amazing moment in the Black Madonna essential mix earlier in the year that it had to make the list. And like the ‘old days’ when I used to make copied of this as a CD and hand write the track listings I can now share this playlist by the wonders of Apple Music; click HERE to listen.

Having said we didn’t make many gigs this year we did make Hannah Wants in March at the Mint Warehouse in sunny Leeds, a great night in a proper dance club venue, we did feel old though, made a bit worse by being told on two occasions in one night that it was good to see two older, well dressed people enjoying themselves at a ‘proper’ night! When Bicep got played on the night and the place went a bit bonkers though it was good to see how music that you have fallen for really hit the audience in the spot it was made for.

A family trip to Centre Parks in Nottinghamshire was a lovely weekend, spending time with our nieces and seeing the joy that family time brings was super, I hope that 2019 gives me more time to spend with them, seeing them grow up so quickly and become little adults built on awesome experiences, even if that is riding ponies in Centre Parks, is a lovely thing to see.

The chair of my organisation suggested a weekend at Oxford University in March as well, go and spend a weekend considering what the Automation of Business in 2022 should look like was the offer, and it was an amazing opportunity to mix with some wonderful brains and really see where this thing we do all day every day is taking us. The journey home though was when the second ‘dump’ of snow arrived, really quite an adventure as by the time we got to Sheffield everywhere was picture postcard beautiful and terrifyingly slippy in equal measure. Quite how we made it home I will never know, but then heading to the Cats Pyjamas on a craftily booked on line 9 o’clock dinner was quite the eye opener, watching the snow come down and the people of Headingly who had set out to celebrate St. Patricks day revel in the weather was hilarious.

Electronic Music in the City is a new Leeds city wide one day event that celebrates all elements of what makes up Electronic Music, for an inaugural event it was nothing short of amazing, venues all over the city with some of the best DJs and sound system you can see, perhaps the most astonishing though was seeing a hero of mine, KiNK take to the stage at Sheaf Street for a demonstration and conversation about making electronic music. He proceeded to make a melody based house music track with just a drum machine and loop as all his other kit had simply shut down on him, such amazing talent and a lovely friendly guy too. Talking of friendly dance music super stars, I also got to see Andy Butler of Hercules and Love Affair play in the sunshine on the roof of Headrow House after a big Saturday out, awesome experience even if I didn’t go and speak to him after and my friends did, what a DJ!

Ibiza this time was made brilliant by friends being there at the same time and some amazing repeat experiences, going to Ibiza though is like putting on a favourite pair of shoes, everything just fits nice, so sharing it with Tim and Rich this year was simply awesome, already looking forward to next year which we planned whilst there. Seeing the sun set from Mambo does two things to me nearly every time, it helps me remember all the times that went before and there have been some startling moments but it also makes me wish for people I have known in my life that ought to have seen that sun set, and that’s a sad edge to the experience.

Being able to get to a conversation with Matt Haig at Waterstones in Leeds was really interesting too. After a busy time at work and moving house and fitting back into life in Yorkshire it was great to hear from him and some of his interpretation of what we should try to consider and believe in to ensure that the light at the end of every day is bright, and if it isn’t then what he thinks we as humans should try to do. The audience that night was full of stories of beating the black feelings and sadness and what inspires them to set about on the war to beat mental health issues at every turn, truly inspiring stories for us all.

My top five book recommendations this year are as unconnected to each other in style and content as I think they have ever been on this blog, I know I enjoy the beauty of a book but in 2019 want to again try to promise myself to put Twitter down and pick up a real book more:

1 – Hit Refresh – Satya Nadella

2 – How To Stop Time – Matt Haig

3 – Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer

4 – The Book of Humans – Adam Rutherford

5 – Out of My Tree (Midsummer House) – Daniel Clifford

My cook book collection doesn’t normally make the top 5 books I have read but Daniels Clifford’s story of how he made success happen is truly amazing, as are the recipes and the photographs, well worth a look. Satya’s book continues all year to be a point of reference and a source for great quotes.

The biggest event of the year though had to be the Corbridge-Carr wedding. An amazing day seeing my brother so happy, a day full of The Proclaimers, cardboard Gary Lineker and many many smiling faces. I was very proud to be asked to be best man and to give the speech a go, it seemed to mostly go down ok with laughs at the right moments and not too many fluffed words, still the most nervous I have ever been for giving a speech, give me 20,000 people in an auditorium any time over a group of family and friends who want you to be great, how odd is that! Standing at the front with the wedding party, holding the vicars book of words and seeing how the bride and groom were with each other filled me with joy for the future of two families linked together now over a very happy couple.

Trying new restaurants was one thing I spoke about in last years review, or rather looking forward to being back in Leeds and getting around to the many new places to eat that had sprung up; which we have done and really enjoyed but perhaps the real exploration has been looking at new restaurants in new cities. The Wilderness in Birmingham, American Social (On a Sunday) in Fort Lauderdale, Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds, Hide Above in London, Barnsley House in the Cotswolds, Bibendom in Kensington, Fera at Clarridges, Freak Scene in Soho, Harvest in the Bellagio in  Las Vegas, Mignonette in Miami, Reserve Roastery in Seattle, The Old Bookbinders in Oxford, Alfresco in Sitges, The Percy Arms in Chatton, Oddfellows Café & Bar in Seattle, White Bait in Wellington, Bodega 1900 in Barcelona, Tapas24 also in Barcelona, Nobu in London, The Ivy back in Leeds have all added to the pallet and the senses at different times in 2018. But the one place we keep going back to in the later part of 2018 is The Reliance in Leeds, I have truly fallen for that place, you can rely on the Reliance!

I have always wanted to see the Chilly Gonzales show, how does one man manage to pull off a show of classical piano, rap and classic interpretations of dance songs in one show with a comedic value added for good measure! Well he does, and at the Leeds show with some of the best seats in the house you could see the raised eye brow for each moment, the way he ‘conducted’ his fellow musicians and indeed how absolute genius like he is on the black and white keys.

We decided that one of the things we would do is get on board with the vinyl junky experience, getting help from the team at Richer Sounds in Leeds we picked a setup we are very proud of and set about the business of creating a collection, old stuff we loved, jazz stuff we hadn’t heard before and soundtracks. The original deal struck was all music had to be pre-1990 but I couldn’t resist hearing Portishead, Massive Attack, Mo Wax and Oasis on the set up so we are now heading down a simple yet diverse collection of sounds.

It’s a year since leaving Ireland and the most amazing team and wonderful experiences, in September a couple of the team got in touch to ask if I would be willing to accept the O’Moore Medal for services to Health Informatics in Ireland, a prestigious honour that I jumped at the chance of. It was huge for me to go over, see the team, reminisce about what we had been able to do and dedicate the medal to four people who made it possible, Kevin, Fran, Joyce and Tony, four parts to a team I will never ever forget. The medal sits pride of place in my new office in Leeds and I am so thrilled to have been part of that journey.

Revisiting Seattle this year was a great learning experience, spending time with Virginia Mason for two days to understand what the way of Toyota has done for how they run a huge hospital was inspirational as was a whole day with the Microsoft team bringing colleagues up to speed with what the next digital leap will be in healthcare. I also had 8 hours to myself in Seattle, a great day exploring, the origins of Starbucks, the head offices of Amazon (Even the Amazon Go shop) the Jimi Hendrix statue, the oldest street, the Pike Market experience and the University campus all to a great soundtrack wherever you went. Three top picks for me for Seattle, go to the Amazon Go store to experience what shopping in the future will be like, take lunch at Oddfellows Café & Bar and see the stars of local film and fashion and spend an hour in the Elliott Bay Book Company, now one of my favourite places in the world.

More than 12 months ago I was asked to deliver the key note at the New Zealand health informatics gathering in Wellington in November, with our leave booked and our suitcases packed we set off on a 10 day trip to New Zealand in November. First stop off Singapore, with 10 hours to spare we headed into Singapore to wander around and get a feel for the city, we ended up at Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay, a modern way to really celebrate an amazing natural environment. Then off to Wellington, we explored so much of Wellington, Cuba Street and the diversity on hand, Weta and the whole concept of Welliwood that has sprung up off the Peter Jackson films being based there. We saw where Hobbits would hide and where Hollywood stars took brunch and had an amazing time, although the 25-hour return journey was a real endurance test.

Being able to deliver the key note in New Zealand though was something special career wise. I bounced on stage and told a story of digital music, Singapore development, American jugglers, Magic engagement tools and the Twilight Zone. One of those moments I will always now remember; and as far as speeches goes it made me some new friends too.

Last year I continued a new tradition of also considering the people I had worked with or met over the year and the impact and memories they brought to what I do and who I am. Working with Molly Gilmartin and the Forward team was an inspiration to how the start-up ethos can and should impact on what we do; having Molly work with my team on what it means to be a disruptive leader and then later in the year see her inspire the whole department at the All Staff Meeting was a great experience, whatever Molly does next will be worth watching that much I am certain of. Bringing two speakers to meet the team in Leeds also had a huge impact, the same it did on me the first time I met them, Dr. Jessica Barker of Cygenta and Jamie White of Leading Social delivered inspiration for new ways of thinking and applying that thinking to what we do to the whole team and it was great to see them hear these inspirational voices for the first time and reflect on the impact they had on me the first time I heard them.

Kindness, sincerity and authenticity are three traits I want to model always, working with a hero of mine Gwyn Thomas on two occasions (and one planned for next year) was a great experience and one I cherish dearly. Meeting Wayne Dyson, not a supplier but the true embodiment of a partner was also exciting and I can’t wait to see where the partnership takes us next, when one ‘supplier’ cares so much about what we do it can only be a good year ahead! And reaffirming the relationship with a colleague like Andy Williams and then being able to so rely on one person to support you through some challenging actions has been brilliant.

Moving house meant we had new neighbours to meet, we had been very lucky in Ireland to have made some amazing friends, here in sunny Leeds though we have made the best of new friends in David and James, true gentlemen and scholars of everything they do.

What a year, so much happened, I haven’t even described what it was like to be at the CIO100 with an old friend, to have the secretary of state visit us and describe us as ‘mind blowing’, to work with a talented a team unlike any I have had the honour to call a peer before, to meet so many new people and create new relationships that I think are now more and more partnerships.

So as always a statement or rallying cry for 2019 needs to be created off the back of the year that was. In the past I spoken about bouncing out of bed every morning, about taking each day as a new opportunity and about how to create the right environment for change. As we head to 2019 for me my outlook needs to be that change will happen, in Leeds we have somewhat built a future on the Robert Frost quote,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

In 2019 I am committed to the development of what we do, who we are and how we do it, I want to use the Emily Dickinson quote as a mantra for why,

The brain is wider than the sky!

I guess my mantra for 2019 though will be to follow in the path of the ever wonderful Fatboy Slim and applying his vision of a good DJ to my life,

A good DJ is always looking at the crowd, seeing what they’re like, seeing whether it’s working, communicating with them. Smiling at them. And a bad DJ is always looking down at what they’re doing all the time and just doing their thing that they practiced in their bedroom.

2019, the year of looking up, smiling and being part of the team!



Digital & Mental Health

I love technology and how it has transformed the way we live today; so sitting in a Matt Haig event last week in sunny Leeds I began to feel like an interloper, an enemy of the ‘people’, like at any moment I would be found out and the audience would rise up against me and swing me from ‘the wall’ very much Handmaid’s Tale-esque.

Matt’s opening comments were very much about the speed of life today and the impact it has on us all. There is no denying what the speed that not just digital brings but the speed of change more generally. We now witness fast paced change in the political scene, the way in which social media impacts upon us all, even the instant gratification of things like Uber, Amazon Prime and Deliveroo, the effect these have on our lives is unrealised day to day.

We spend very little time simply waiting for something without distraction. A friend, an avid Twitter poster, recently commented that he was on the family summer holiday and camping. There were queues everywhere and little mobile signal, so people were actually talking to each other, although the irony wasn’t lost on others, that he was still posting this on Twitter!

Mental health (or rather a lack of it) is the biggest killer of men under 50 years of age! We call the collective for illnesses in this pandemic ‘health’ even though this is a misnomer that we hide behind. People die through a lack of understanding, a lack of support, a lack of diagnosis; they don’t die because they have ‘mental health’, that’s what we need to strive for, we want people to be mentally healthy!

No one would think you should only get treatment for a physical illness if you’re on the point of death

The political mighty have taken it upon themselves to remove sugary drinks from most of the market place to attempt to remove the obesity issue threatening the kids of today. Yet what has the same intelligencer done about the support for the mental health of the same children? Very little yet! Anti-depressants are the fastest growing prescription drug in boys aged 11 to 14 in 2018, this figure floored me!

The pressure on the young of today outweighs anything anyone my age would have ever felt. Matt pointed out in his talk that when we were kids the need to fit in, the need to hide from the bully or even the annoying friendly chap, ceased to be there at four o’clock because we could go home and close our bedroom doors with only our parents and siblings to handle. Now the school and the peer groups’, friendly and unfriendly, follow children home. Social media brings us ever closer, so close that time away, time alone, is becoming the most treasured position. That unique opportunity we chased used to be connectivity and sharing, now it’s time unplugged and chance to breathe without so much connectivity a chance to just be.

When you interact with the next generation now how does it make you feel? What is the generation gap when it comes to mental health I wonder? A member of Matt’s audience asked about the definition and difference between nervousness and anxiety. He quickly compared the difference being the equivalent to hungry and starvation! For me nearing 45 years old, I thought that was quite an amazing way of considering the difference in how the younger generation will define the impacts on mental health – worlds apart. How many people under the age of 30 will exclaim that they are stressed, and how often will the ‘elderly statesman’ retort that they have nothing to be stressed about.

The way we consider mental health of people in the UK needs a fresh pair of eyes. We need to get to impacts and causes somehow.

My boss in Ireland used to talk eloquently about the health care system being a system of the sick not a health care system because it doesn’t do (isn’t able to do) prevention. The ‘shift left’ change to health care much talked up all over Europe now needs to be applied to the mental health of the people of the UK more than ever before. Matt gave a great example of Fiji in the mid-1990s, when they started to air US TV shows, ahead of doing this there were no eating disorders in Fiji. Anxiety was almost unheard of, but within five years, eating disorders grew to the ‘norms’ of the US and anxiety was at one point described as a pandemic. There are no official studies linking the two events, and as I have said already the world is changing at a high speed, but, it does make you pause for thought.

But there has to be hope, doesn’t there? When do we become aware of what makes us better? When do we apply that to the next generation of young people, harmed by the pressure the system applies to them to such a degree that society becomes malformed and somehow changes in how it treats the disease are never quite impactful. We have now accepted the term mental health as a phrase that is ok to use as an everyday description for a reason for school exclusion.

Matt asked the audience to ‘hear their own advice’, ‘it’s ok to be well one bit at a time’, ‘you can be a bit better’. We need a new acceptance, it’s ok to be at work with a cold, just don’t give it to me, and therefore it needs to be ok and supported to be at work or involved in activities with some mental health issues. How do we accept, understand and support mental health illness in the work place, in the school system, in the street in the same way as the common cold I wonder?

We have to do something, the speed of life isn’t going to slow down, I don’t want the speed of digital innovation to slow, which means it will continue to have an impact on our lives. I took another great little anecdote from Matt: digital and social is like ice cream! We can have a bit of what we love, and I love dearly chocolate and vanilla in the same bowl, but staying in bed on Saturday morning for four hours with a bath of chocolate and vanilla would not do any of us any good, the same goes for digital and social media I guess.

If we move our world forward just five years we need to be able to give ourselves some assurance that the digital world we create does good without causing harm. In my professional area we talk of patient centred design and portable data owned by the citizen but we also need to consider inclusivity and the bias associated to what digital brings. I am still excited for the future, our awareness is improving and I hope that this means we can get it right, evolve in a direction that is safe but also considerate of the wider impacts. Just maybe digital can be part of the cure not the problem.

A great loss…

With great loss comes a new degree of responsibility, the world of science has lost not just a great thinker but probably the biggest inspiration of the last century. The loss of Stephen Hawking at 76 years old is a sad day for anyone who has been inspired by his writing, his speaking even his presence, to think differently, to consider something beyond the normal and then to try to persuade others that the idea you have could become a new normal.

In 1970 his work on Black Holes moved us closer to understanding not just the science of how we are here but placed our minds in a position to understand the why. By 1974 he created a unified theory that combined general relativity with quantum mechanics, the next phase in computing, the Quantum Computer would not have been possible without this work. Satya Nadella wrote in his recent book that the best way to describe Quantum Computing and its impact would be to take a description of the Twilight Zone and apply it to a new world;

You’re traveling through an other dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop…

The Twilight Zone by Rod Serling

Perhaps that is what professor Hawking really wanted us to do, travel with our minds to a new dimension.

By 1979 he had outlived his doctors predicted life expectancy by a decade. He was never going to give up challenging clinicians throughout the world by his sheer act of will to continue to exist. He outlived the clinical prediction of his existence by 47 years, he himself described those years as borrowed time he had to pay back.

In 1985 he found a new voice, one that he never wanted to loose despite changes in technology, one that became a trademark for a new intelligence. By 1988 A Brief History of Time was published, a real science book that would remain a best seller for four consecutive years and in 2018 will probably make many peoples hot lists of the year again. A Brief History of Time popularised science, physics and the art of describing complexity in simple terms to people who at school would not have ever been an achiever in science, me included.

If we find the answer to (why we and the universe exist), it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.

A quote straight from the best seller to me revealed the continuing battle inside Hawking to truly reach everyone and help them understand the meaning of life, above and beyond the Life of Brian definition.

1999 arrived and a pop culture icon was born; one of the worlds favourite ‘real’ characters on the Simpsons, his own TV series, a guest appearance on Star Trek the Next Generation and even a voice over on Pink Floyd’s album Division Bell, perhaps a higher accolade than D:Ream!

In 2004 his thinking on Black Holes continued however he proved that even the greatest can change their mind when he proclaimed loudly that he had altered his findings on what happens to information that ends up in a Black Hole, the theory that it flows to other universes was born, the dreams of every Sci-Fi geek came true.

Most recently Hawking asked the whole human race to take care when investing in theory around Artificial Intelligence, investing in a black box of uncontrolled knowledge needs to be done with some moralistic compass and control.

For me though Stephen Hawking was more than the sum of these parts, his voice, his uniqueness and the way he engaged generation after generation in what the world could be through science, through change and innovation is what his legacy will be

So remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and hold on to that childlike wonder about what makes the universe exist.

RIP Professor Hawking, you rock!

Change the reaction…

Last night was a great night out in ‘sunny’ London, for me a return to the Jazz Café in Camden, a place I used to love, a place I frequented many times. But, the last time I was there was for the final goodbye gig of a band I loved, Ben and Jason around 2003.

So much changed after that gig, I moved jobs, houses, and relationships changed, and then a devastating thing happened, the person I shared Ben and Jason with, the person who taught me so much became irrevocably depressed, I am ashamed to say I do not know why but stepping into the Jazz Café last night brought back some amazing ghosts of an amazing man. Music can do that to people can’t it!

The gig last night was a live remix by a collective called Blue Labs Beats, they took Guru’s seminal Jazzmatazz volume one and reimagined it live on stage; and then the song Sights In The City came on with the lyrics;

Sights in the city got people cryin.. Sights in the city got people dyin..

It was a long time since my friend had popped into my head but this week there seems to have been a lot of commentary on men who commit suicide, maybe that is why when this Jazzmatazz classic song came on I could almost see him stood there, taking photos, enjoying being at a moment for us that we were sure we would never forget, and yet no matter how good the moment, we did forget it.

A statistic for you, the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK is suicide. Here’s another fact 6,000 lives were lost in Britain due to suicide in 2016 and three quarters of those deaths were men!

Why does the black dog, that horrible black cloud land on a man’s back with such intensity, and why oh why do we not deal with the assistance that is needed in a proper, human way? A man feels blue and too often the phrases of anti-masculinity are rolled out; “Don’t be a big girl’s blouse”, “Boys don’t cry”, “Man up” all are common pieces of advice to a man who opens up and says I need help.

I have yet to read any evidence that explains why men are hit by depression harder than women, I am not even sure they are, I think what actually happens is a woman knows how to seek help, a man is conditioned to handle it on their own. In fact, the Mental Health Foundation claim that in England, women are “more likely than men” to be affected by the most common mental health issues. And yet men take depression to the further place so much more frequently than women. This highlights the issue that suicide is such a pressing consequence for us to understand and find a new way to assist every man who reaches out.

This week I commented on social media that lad culture has gone; it’s a decade since Loaded magazine meant something, even FHM is no longer here, and yet we seem unable to move away from how we treat emotions as men. A drunk friend who needs helps warrants a joke that he is just being a lad. Why do we think this is funny still!

I want to be part of a change, I want to be clear that it is ok to be a man with emotions, and if a man, a friend, an acquaintance, a colleague needs help then we have to learn how to be there in the right way for that person.

Back to the memories, going to Jazz Café last night enabled a ghost or two to be put to rest, but it woke up in me a real desire to see what I can do to help, I don’t want the language we use to be a part of the problem anymore.

Since that final Ben and Jason gig the world has changed, and yet being there last night it struck me that so many things haven’t changed. I want to know that if a friend were to come to me with an emotional issue that I would react better now, in a way that would help, in a way that is informed in a way that did not need to consider the gender of the person seeking help.

Ben and Jason’s Everybody Hold Hands With Everybody Else sums up where I wish we could get to;

Dying man, aching hands, fallen to the floor, drowning man, hold his hand, pull him to the shore, back in your hair again, always my heroine, it’s getting harder to bear, you’re not a friend to me, if you come down to me, I’ll never take all your air.




NB – This blog has been written quickly, apology’s for any grammar or spelling mistakes in there, I will get back and fix these later.

2017 Review of the Year

Well folks, its that time of year again, a reflection of 365 days; things that have happened, things that that I’ve heard, things that I’ve watched things that I’ve learnt.

My very own review of 2017.

This is the fifth time I have been able to do a review of the year, take a little time and reflect on what has happened to me over 12 months. As I looked back on 2016 I commented that I thought it had been a quick one, where has the time gone, this year seems to have evaporated in front of my very eyes.

One change that has happened that I would never have predicted at the beginning of the year was that I would be writing this blog back in Leeds, back in my home county, my home city. The decision to leave Ireland was not an easy one, but I have written about that already on here. Being back in Yorkshire with family and friends is a heart-warming change. As part of the planning process for coming back to Yorkshire my wife commented how strange it is when you travel, how you can wake up on one day a member of a great team in Ireland and within 24 hours migrate to being part of something quite new. Well, we are a month into something quite new and indeed something we have done before; maybe it’s the best of both worlds, it doesn’t feel like going back but more a forward leap of faith to try and test the next part of tomorrow.

I certainly dare not even try to predict what 2018 holds for us. I was lucky enough to meet Gus Balbontin (of Lonely Planet fame) this year. Gus was adamant that every time we create a plan a fairy dies, so, 2018 will be my attempt to do less plans, more simply considering what to do next and less dead fairies! And, if you ever see Gus on a list of speakers at an event go see him, so inspirational in so many ways, energy, storytelling, sheer will of determination to make you understand his message, awesome!

Travel has played a huge part in 2017 for me, a dream holiday at what will now become a habitual holiday time for us happened in February. A few days in Bangkok followed by two amazing weeks on Phuket. I never did the whole backpack traveller thing; I was too ambitious to get my career started! Being in Bangkok blew my mind, probably in less than 10 minutes of being there. Temples, lady boys, practically free bear, live food choices, huge market places and the most expensive glass of wine I have ever had all featured in a very short time in Bangkok. We were then on to the relaxing part of the holiday on a very sunny Phuket. It really did allow my brain to recharge but after a few days of that learning the basics of Thai boxing, heading to Café Del Mar on Phuket and then following in the footsteps of Leonado De Caprio were all new adventures and highlights, experiences that made it the holiday of a life time.

2017 was also the year of some formal activities too, becoming a god father was an amazing experience, the fact that two wonderful friends and people I feel I have known forever want me to help in the upbringing of their very beautiful second daughter was amazing, and leading a reading at the service was a highlight of the year. Setting me up for another formal event in a few short months, my brother and his amazing fiancée decided that I would be the right person to be their best man in August 2018. I guess a prediction I can make is that the review of 2018 will feature some stories from the stag-do in Las Vegas and the wedding in August.

I have had the great pleasure, as I have had every year, of working with some new amazing people, but in particular this year I properly got to know the team at Leading Social, a driven, aware, capable and unbelievably creative bunch, led by the ever up and ‘at’em’ Jamie White and the calmest and most considered side kick ever, Emma Klyne. When you meet an organisation like Leading Social and it becomes a partnership so quickly it always fills me with enthusiasm for what the future will hold.

Only one trip to Ibiza beats this years, and that one is unbeatable. But this year everything went so well, seeing Hot Since 82 and Purple Disco Machine, making it to some of the best day time dancing in beautiful sunshine with a lot fun scenery made for a great holiday, so much that the dates are booked straight away to repeat the experience.

When I first started writing this yearly review it focused on lists of music, the songs of the year, and yes I can’t not do that for my own piece of mind, but perhaps most interesting this year is the sudden re-emergence for me of albums, sets of music played in the order that the artist originally intended for the youngsters out there! New music by the likes of; Kolsch, Kink, Bicep, Terrence Parker, Jesse Rose, George Fitzgerald, LCD Soundsystem, Hercules and Love Affair, Honey Dijon, Anja Schneider, Maya Jane Coles, Purple Disco Machine and Emancipator have really given me something to look forward to when the release date came around, all recommendations for your listening pleasure.

Live music is still part of every month, and some of the best nights out have been gigs this year; James Vincent McMorrow in the grounds of Trinity University, Go Go Penguin, U2, The Happy Mondays, Loyle Carner, King Krule and Fatima Yamaha have all been part of the live experiences this year. Perhaps the best though was seeing Air at the Beatyard festival on a very very wet day in Ireland, one of those bucket list bands I had to see.

So one of the things I have done every year since 2003 is pick my songs of the year and keep them as a play list to go back to and enjoy, this years top 40 goes something like this:

  1. He Is The Voice I Hear – The Black Madonna
  2. Say Something Loving – The XX
  3. No CD – Loyle Carner
  4. Grey – Kolsch
  5. oh baby – LCD SOundsystem
  6. Chinatown – Liam Gallagher
  7. Don’t Waste Another Minute – Terrence Parker
  8. Cola (Elderbrook Chilled Mix) – CamelPhat & Elderbrook
  9. Scars – DJ Shadow
  10. Yom Thorke – Kink
  11. Devil In Me (Fatboy Slim Mix) – Purple Disco Machine
  12. Moving On & Getting Over – John Mayer
  13. Big Picture – London Grammar
  14. Beautiful Day – Due Du Soleil
  15. Human (MJ Cole Remix) – Rag ‘n’ Bone Man
  16. Araya – Fatima Yamaha
  17. Promises – Sonny Fodera
  18. Try A Little Tenderness – Sandy Rivera
  19. All Goes Wrong – Chase & Status
  20. Grease – Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White
  21. Wonky Baseline Disco Banger (Luke Solomon Live Disco Revision) – Red Rack’em
  22. You Don’t Know Me – Jax Jones
  23. By The Ports of Europe – Benjamin Clementine
  24. Hello? – Tensnake
  25. Searching (Jazzuelle Remix) – Fred Everything
  26. Old Kisses – Dan Michaelson
  27. Andromeda (Purple Disco Machine Remix) – Gorillaz
  28. Glue – Bicep
  29. Grant Green – Mr. Jukes
  30. Cloud 9 (Purple Disco Machine Remix) – Jamiroquai
  31. Final Credits – Midland
  32. Lose Your Love – Joe Goddard
  33. Eden – Johnny Lloyd
  34. Theme From Q – Objekt
  35. Elvissa – Marquis Hawkes
  36. Grass Is Greener – Phonique
  37. It’s Just A Game – Danny & The Champions of the World
  38. Light You Up – Luke Solomon
  39. Real Life – Duke Dumont & Gorgon City
  40. Far Too Good – John Smith

The way taste changes, evolves and grows I find fascinating. Ireland changed my music taste, radio friendly pop music crept in, I am interested to see what being back home in Yorkshire does to it in 2018, certainly the gigs we are lining up would suggest a continued interest in those melody driven dance songs.

If we are going to do the songs list we may as well get the films (and TV Series) list up too;

 1 – Wonderwoman 6 – The Sinner (TV)
 2 – La La Land 7 – Logan
 3 – Stranger Things 2 (TV) 8 – 13 Hours
 4 – Hacksaw Ridge 9 – Passengers
 5 – Arrival 10 – American Gods (TV)

I’m not always sure these were released truly this year but they landed on my screen this year and I enjoyed them a great deal. I stopped myself from adding Defenders and The Punisher and Luke Cage as well, that could have been a step too far. The second season of The Get Down did it for me as well but for some reason nobody else seemed to enjoy it the same, don’t you just hate that when your programme gets cancelled before it gets to some sort of fruition.

Being named as the number one CIO in the CIO100 was such a great moment in the year for me. The CIO100 is something I have been involved in for a few years now; being number 15 the very first year and the party that we threw the next day back at the organisation I worked for will stick with me forever. Being there at the front of the book was a wonderful recognition this year. I loved ‘giving’ the Oscar speech as well, making sure I didn’t forget the people that put me there, one day there will be a way of awarding the team of a digital organisation without so specifically calling out one person.

The after party that was arranged was pretty cool, one of the smallest clubs in London, in an old Gents loo with the most amazing dancing on stage, and me, in my celebratory state almost making it back-stage instead of outside will go down in my own stories of legend. The year kept being quite award driven though, a big surprise was a new category at the eGov Awards in Ireland, being announced by my Minister at the time as the winner of the Net-Visionary award was pretty cool.

Perhaps the best of the awards though was in early December at the Talent Unleashed awards. An award across the whole globe judged by Sir Richard Branson and Steve Wozniack, they decided to give me the award for the things that had been achieved in digital health in Ireland; most disruptive digital leader, it was such a great night in the museum of London and felt like a nice personal ‘round-off’ to three years in Ireland working with a wonderful team.

Meeting new people has an impact on all of us, in 2016 I met Fabian Bolin from War on Cancer, in 2017 I was able to invite him to a stage I was hosting, hearing his story touch people as it had done me a year earlier was a great moment. Disease and cancer in particular continues to touch so many people, we all have a story that makes an experience personal, to hear Fabian speak puts a new context on what we as individuals can do about it. In the job I do I try to talk to teams about being in it for the mission of making healthcare systems ‘right’, people like Fabien are the true inspiration for this as a way of being, a definite highlight of the year, a man who gave me so much courage through the year.

Talking of courage and teams; Wannacry as a highlight? Well in Ireland it was! Leaving Galway after a series of meetings a call came in from the NHS alerted us to the fact that something quite serious was about to happen. Those couple of hours gave Ireland the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and protect the boundaries of the system. I have never been prouder than on the Sunday hearing the roll call of people involved working so hard to do a job they did because they cared so much. It made for a busy weekend, TV and Radio and generally ensuring that everyone in health knew what to do when they touched a computer over those few days was something we now put down as a significant effect on the way Ireland came out of Wannacry. The team achieved the plaudits they deserved and for a short while the health system was seen as a leader in all things digital in Ireland.

Traveling for work became a part of the job in Ireland a part that was enjoyable although not always actually seeing much of the places I went to; Brussels, Malta, Barcelona, Estonia, London, Belfast, Richmond and Seattle all featured on the passport stamp in 2017. Perhaps the most fun travel though was the Maternity Digital Challenge; three cars in a challenge to visit every Maternity unit in Ireland (19 Units) in 24 hours and at the end of it publish a digital strategy for maternity services. The fastest piece of policy ever in Ireland and one that if acted upon fully will truly change the way maternity services are offered across the country.

The great thing about the travel side of what I do is obviously meeting people and the connections that then brings. Social media is a huge part of maintaining these connections, in 2017 a great many new connections have been made, the ones I continue to learn most from or truly inspire me on an almost daily basis include;

 1 – @MattHaig1     6 – @MrDanWalker
 2 – @ValaAfshar     7 – @DrJessicaBarker
 3 – @MuziekGeluk     8 – @Pnolan99
 4 – @Nickisnpdx     9 – @Rosarii_mannion
 5 – @TedRubin     10 – @evankirstel


In 2018 there will be a new set of lists of the digital health leaders to follow coming out of Ireland and indeed HIMSS will be publishing their 50 global leaders, having featured in the Huffington Post social media lists I really think this is a great way of getting in touch with a different set of people that can expand what you know and what you want to learn. In the case of @Nickisnpdx and @MuziekGeluk I have met two people who genuinely have changed my life views. Two others in ‘the business’ that are also worth a follow are: @UKPenguin and @Andy_Kinnear, real digital health heros in a half-shell!

Life views get changed by events and people, Manchester and the impact the horrible events of that evening had on so many people will always now bare a mark on me. I love live events, and now they will always be a thought that goes out to those people that were harmed by the horrors of what happened in Manchester. I went to see Professor Brian Cox just days after Manchester, the odd calmness to the delays, the new acceptance of a normal that has come to us is quite scary. Professor Cox provided almost a eulogy for me in the way he delivered his ‘set’, how we are all human beings here on this planet for reasons unknown and yet so many people seem to be set here to destroy all that is good. In the wake of Manchester many people tried hard to stress the need to simply spread love not hate, I wish that would continue to hold strong in 2018.

You can tell you are getting older, not just by the amount of grey hair but by a change in the what you love to do when you go out. For me this year new restaurants have played a huge part in my entertainment; Tickets, Social Eating House, Amuse, Hang Dai, Punch Room, Café Del Mar, Blind Pig, Mulberry Garden, Tattu, Cats PJs and Headrow House have all made a difference to the nights out I have enjoyed.

I have managed to get to the Café Del Mar on Ibiza, Barcelona, Thailand and Malta (Although Malta is a ‘fake’ version) and I am lucky enough to be adding Miami to the list in a couple of months, which just leaves Dubai. Amazing music, super food and normally some pretty cool entertainment make the Ibiza version of Café Del Mar still up there in the top places for me!

One of the last things I got to do in Ireland was a little dream come true, speaking at a literary festival. Something Wicked is a little crime writing festival in North Dublin and I had the great honour of speaking at it on the threats of Cyber Crime and how the world is changing through digital. It was a superb audience with a lot of smiling faces and great discussion and questions after. I would love to do it again in the future I enjoyed it so much.

Being back in the UK re-opens one of my other favourite pass times, shopping! With Vivian Westwood, Jeffery West, Pretty Green, Paul Smith, Jigsaw, Hip, Ok Comics, All Blues Co. and so many more wonderful shops in Leeds Saturdays (When Barnsley FC aren’t at home) are going to be fun and have been already since getting back here.

My last two memories of Ireland and 2017 are people based, my parting gift from Roisin Doherty was my very own certificate of my Individual Health Identifier, seeing that on paper and it being able to be used to aid in the delivery of my care is a great achievement for a small team of dedicated and inspiring leaders, none more so than Roisin who I can safely say is one of the most accomplished Project Managers I have come across and I know will go on to do amazing things in the digital health space, a definite highlight of 2017.

Last but not least was leaving Niamh, my trusted sidekick for only a couple of years but leaving someone who has helped you so much was difficult, we joked in those last few days about the importance Niamh has played in the success of eHealth Ireland, for those that are still involved on the Green Isle, it was no joke, Niamh is the centre of that world and intrinsic to its success. Working with someone who simply gets what you are doing was a great part of 2017, a lot of laughter was shared.

So here we are, on the verge of 2018. A new team, a new goal, a new environment and a new outlook, last year I leapt into 2017 with a new motto; We can achieve, we truly can.’ I was full of vigour for not doing things like we always have, doing something different.

2018 is going to be the year that I work with my new team and try hard to;

‘… change what we do to change who we are.’

Small changes, small moves of the behaviour dial is all it takes to make a difference when the team you are part of is as good as what I have inherited here in Leeds. The culture I now work within can and will be our advantage in 2018 and I want to be part of the changes we each make more than anything else. After all as Bob Dylan says, ‘There is nothing so stable as change.’

We are in the year of the Rooster, so every morning I will try hard to wake up with the call of the Rooster ready for the next new challenge!

Bring on 2018, but thanks for the fun 2017.

What is Pink Socks?

A simple pair of Pink Socks can change your world! Pair by pair pink socks have become the new paradigm in connectedness for healthcare IT professionals all over the world. To have a pair from Nick Adkins that you can gift on enables you to become the Network Effect Technology!

My first pair arrived from the Netherlands, from Ignar Rip, a simple gift of a few pairs to pass on, to create a little enclave of Pink Socks for an Irish health care conference, in this case the socks represented more than a new connection for technology people, they represented an awareness of improving Dementia care globally, they also created me a new friend who loves a variety of music and believes in the transformation of health care.

Being able to pass the socks on at the Future Health summit to such giants of the industry like Andy Kinnear and Rachel Dunscombe was a great pleasure, seeing the founders of One Health Tech Ireland in the socks as they began to formulate the plans for creating diversity in our industry was also a great thrill.

         In just three connections the socks were making more difference than Block Chain is yet to make on health care!

Next came the wonderful Roy Lilley and Shane Tickell at the first Irish HealthChat, live from sunny Dun Laoghaire, Pink Socks times three now made it on to live TV and still represented partnerships and friendships coming from working together. Over the last three years we have worked hard with team in Dun Laoghaire to try to ensure there are ways that an Irish company with an amazing idea can be supported by the Irish health care system that needs their amazing ideas. Pinks Socks in action for another reason!

Last but by no means least is the Pink Socks feature at Health Innovation week, a pair of the Pink Socks 2.0 gifted to every speaker at the main event ensured that they then featured in the whole week of events. It didn’t matter if you were the newest digital engagement expert from Samsung, the CEO of CHIME or the Minister for Health, in that week Pink Socks became the way to connect.

Nick finishes his recent TEDX in San Francisco by asking everyone in the audience to turn to someone they don’t know and with intent say, “I See You!” Three words that can make a connection.

   So for me Pinks Socks is…

…a new connection, a new way of seeing people, not roles, not prejudices, not functions, not end game goals, but real people, who, if we truly make the connection we will be able to have help in everything we do.

I want to be seen because I want to help.

Leaving Ireland…

The 31st of July was a very sad day for me, it was the day I had to sit down with the Director General and say those words, ‘I resign as CIO of the HSE.’ Nearly three years in Ireland has been amazing. In the following week one of the team asked me, ‘was it a hard decision?’ Yes it was, one of the hardest I have ever had to make, over the last three years I have met some of the most committed and talented people I have ever had the pleasure to work with, a team of people who truly, with the right support, can change the face of a country!

Some of you will have heard me tell this story before, so please forgive me; my second day in Ireland, I grabbed a taxi, the Dublin driver turned to me and did the usual, where are you from etc, and then asked what brings you here? I replied without hesitation, somewhat green to Ireland and the culture, that I was working for the health service. The taxi driver stopped in his tracks and said, “You have a lot to learn, you have joined the second most hated organisation in Ireland, after water Irish people hate the health service the second most!”

I assumed he was joking, but no he was kind of right. The health system of Ireland is not a loved system, its not cherished, its described as bloated, regularly someone has a ‘pop’ at it being top heavy, or spending money wrongly, or deploying resources in the wrong places. Yet, here we are with a health system that every day saves hundreds of lives, a system that has a workforce like I have never seen before, a committed one that knows how to deliver care with compassion and often against adversity.

Let me take my own crisis management experience in Ireland, Wannacry, as an illustration. On the Friday evening the team identified the global impacting issue was heading our way, without any consideration for the plans for the weekend the team mobilised, created a defence strategy and set about working all weekend, all hours of the weekend, to protect the systems that delivers care to the Irish citizen. Nobody was paid to do this, no one received any bonus, time off in lieu or really any kind of recognition other than a heartfelt thanks from the system. In fact some ‘friendly’ people on social media suggested that the strategy adopted was even wrong, and that the focus should never have been needed if the HSE had been more prepared. I was so proud when on the following Tuesday we returned all systems back to normal and were able to say we had protected Ireland when others across the world had not been able to achieve the same.    

Leaving this role, not being part of the team in the HSE leaves me with so much trepidation; the personal focus that so many people have put into the changes that we have made over the last three years is significant, I wonder if this ‘perfect storm’ of personalities will ever be created again. One of the first programmes of work I ever owned in healthcare was the delivery of a system called the Data Transfer Service (DTS). The solution was a new way for primary care and acute and administrative functions to share information securely and in a timely fashion and we had to deliver this in thirteen months, this was back in the late 1990s. I thought that was the best team I had ever worked with until I came to Ireland.

The team make-up is a happy accident that has evolved to be one that I will look to emulate elsewhere. The team is a mixture of evangelists, sceptics and pragmatists, after a couple of years in the role that mixture hit the right balance. The team has a group of people who believe in being open and a sub-set who understand the need to be closed. The creativity in some has been astounding and the sheer dogged focus to keep going in others has given us a drive that has seen us get to the finish line on so many projects.

What I have learnt is best described by a Yorkshire phrase; “It takes all sorts!”

Handing the team to a respected, committed and digitally enthused leader has given me a new reflection on what can be achieved. The team are gathering around my interim replacement ready to support her and help her continue the success, not just of the last 3 years but the building success that the team has been trying to achieve for the last decade. There are some new tools now; a ‘brand’ that is synonymous with success and openness is in place in the form of eHealth Ireland. The health identifier is a foundation for information stored digitally, enabling a leap forward in patient safety initiatives with a data flavour. Ireland and its health system has a renewed vigour for what can be achieved in healthcare through the foundations of a digital system. Its first examples of digital hospitals are live and are a success, the programme to sequence the genome of patients with suspected epilepsy is changing the lives of many people this year, people with a disease that is often not considered high enough up the agenda. The readiness to consider innovation, how to work with the new, the fresh, the different ideas is also now part of the way the Irish healthcare system is changing and delivering benefit. In the last 12 months alone there have been over 50 new digital solutions deployed into the health system, each of these implementations requires the unwavering commitment of a team to make the system live and support the system going forward.

Perhaps the biggest ‘thing’ that we have achieved though in the last three years is to place the possibility of digital in health on to the agenda. We have a minister who says that digital is no longer a nice to have, we have a HSE leadership team that has embraced the concepts of digital into the way it works and the way it considers reform. The representation of all of this is the passion of the team that deliver this though, as my goodbye reflection I want to pause here and call out, maybe even embarrass a few of them, “live” on this blog site, to be remembered here and learnt from in the future.

First and foremost, an often unsung hero of the team is Joyce Shaw, the driving force in how we have transformed as a team, a lady with a passion for the team, how It works and perhaps most importantly the reality of people working hard together. Joyce is the conscience of the team!

The most considered, calm and truly gentlemanly Fran Thompson would be next on my list of essential elements to any team of the future. Without Fran being there through thick, thin, muddy and clear so much of what has been achieved in the last three years would have got absolutely nowhere.   

When I consider the team that we were in December 2014 and think about the difference people have personally made I have to call out Michael Redmond as well. Michael is a true example of a leader building through engagement. Working with Michael and seeing him go from sceptic to optimist over a three year period of time has been one of my own personal highlights.  

The eHealth Ireland committee has been a joy to work with, and is a group of people I now call friends, Eibhlin Mulroe, Derick Mitchell, Andrew Griffiths and the ever committed Mark Ferguson have ensured that the path we have walked has been supported. The success of the eHealth brand can be put down to these people and others in the committee who work hard in the background ensuring that we can make a success of what we do.

I have been lucky in that I have worked for two ministers who have wanted to engage with the digital element of health in a different way, they have taken a personal interest in what we do as a team, supported us and been there for us. eHealth Ireland has been able to enjoy an open door to both ministers over the last three years an acceptance and realisation that the team here in health is a high performing team of committed and capable staff is a great by product of that engagement.

A wise old colleague of mine said to me once that those of us that want to evolve and change simply need a good manager, once that person is in place we will be able to achieve anything. It felt a little like a piece of Jedi advice at the time but working for the DG of the health service here in Ireland I now understand. The DG has empowered us to get on with it, insisted we stay calm in the most stressful of situations and supported all that we have tried to do in a way that ensures success, certainly without this support we would still be thinking through how to make some of what we have achieved happen.

There is space for just two more names on this list for fear of it turning into a gushing speech that no one will read.

Niamh Falconer is my conscience, where Joyce ensures the team has a voice in everything Niamh reminds me of my voice in everything, caring for me and reminding me that successful change needs time to happen and time can’t be magically created; although she has had a magic wand in her hand for the last two years doing Tinkerbell like tricks to make sure we can do what we need to do.

Last but not least is Maria O’Loughlin, when grey clouds appear Maria has blown them away for so many parts of the team. She has a unique ability to translate ideas into reality whilst adding a shiny creative style to them, if we adopt Pareto’s rule Maria is the way to achieve the last 20% in all that we do.

Calling out individuals is dangerous, I know that, the reality is that in every single case of every person I have worked with over the last three years they have touched what we have done and indeed who I have become in some way, I would love to simply list everyone here now but no one would find that an interesting final comment from me.

A vision of the future has to be my final comment, I came to Ireland in October 2014 to present at the HISI conference what my vision of the future would be, I think much of that vision is still valid! The purpose of eHealth in Ireland is to create digital as a platform for change, a platform for a health service that has every citizen’s health and wellbeing at the heart of what it does.

If I could have a final wish it would be;

… be nice to the system that is there, help it continue to evolve.

It needs to find a new way to celebrate what it is, the Health Service Executive is the life blood of this country, treat it as that, realise what is limiting its capability and focus on fixing that rather than damaging and attacking the resource that is at its disposal. The HSE is an organisation that is committed, it is an organisation that is caring and it is an organisation that is capable, treat it as that and it will deliver the best healthcare system for the population of this great country.  

Don’t worry be happy…

I loved that song, Bobby McFerrin 1988 when the world was a much simpler place. No matter what we do we have days when we are up and cope with anything and days when we are down and the world gets on top of us all. What are the tricks of the trade you use when you are struggling to ‘turn that frown upside down?’ In the world of social media so many people turn to the ‘hive-mind’ for support, what can seem like a random note to Facebook can actually be a cry for help, and so often they go un-responded to or worse become derided for seeking attention.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world!

Robin Williams

What makes us glum? I am returning from teaching at the Next Gen CIO school in Brussels, a great experience, one of the teachers was there to convince the next generation of CIOs that they really need to look after themselves an awful lot more if they are to have the energy they need to be truly great CIOs. He advised on diet, sleep patterns and ways to manage stressful situations, all clearly impactful in the health and wellbeing of what we do. What percentage of CIOs have stress symptoms I wonder, my guess its very high.  

But tomorrow, the 10th of October, is world Mental Health day, I for one will be remembering a good friend, a friend that couldn’t get the help he needed at the time when he needed it the most. Despite being loved deeply by everyone around him stopping worrying and trying to be happy was no longer an option.

So  on the day that you read this extra short blog post at some point give a friend a second glance and consider do you know how they are feeling, do they need a little more support, can you be, just a little bit nicer to them. Even better, consider a colleague, a member of your team, a manager, a leader and ask yourself could I do something today to show them that I care, because for some people that will be the giant leap they need to not worry and be happy.

After all it is the little things in life that make us smile, and smiling is infectious.

What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong!

Robin Williams

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