England’s former chief nursing information officer launches new company

A nurse who made history as England’s first national chief nursing information officer (CNIO) has now launched her own company focused on digital nursing.

Professor Natasha Phillips held the CNIO role between May 2020 and July 2023, first at NHSX and then NHS England, when the latter body absorbed the other.

Speaking to Nursing Times, Professor Phillips said it was always her plan to leave the national CNIO role after three years to start her own venture.

She said she was now seeking to further advance the digital nursing agenda from “the outside” through her new company, Future Nurse.

The business has a mission statement of “empower[ing] all nurses to lead successful digital transformation in health and care”.

Professor Phillips said, through Future Nurse, she hoped to offer education for nurses and consultancy for health and care organisations to develop their digital strategies, as well as ‘thought leadership’ from herself and other digital nursing leaders.

Her hope was to build a “community” of digital nursing experts who could be called upon, for example, by developers of new healthcare technology.

“I’m more of a disrupter than a bureaucrat, so being on the outside is helpful”

Natasha Phillips

She believed one of her successes as national CNIO was getting “people to pay attention” to the issue of technology in nursing and the importance of involving nurses themselves in these conversations.

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“Industry are interested and paying attention, and want to know what nurses think and they want to build systems that support nurses,” said Professor Phillips.

“But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to be having that dialogue with them,” she told Nursing Times.

She said, historically, it had been the case that “nurses are not well served by tech in healthcare, often not involved in the right conversations and really left behind”.

It was for this reason that she took on the national CNIO role, in order to try and change this situation. Professor Phillips said she believed there had now been a positive “shift” nationally.

“I had gone to NHS England with a mission to empower nurses to practice and lead digital healthcare and ensure they are well served by tech,” Professor Phillips told Nursing Times.

“In that time, in the three years, I made great strides in that, as part of [chief nursing officer for England] Dame Ruth May’s team, and we did a number of things that leave a strong foundation for that work to continue under the leadership of Helen Balsdon, interim CNIO.”

One of the major projects that Professor Phillips took on while CNIO was chairing a review of the readiness of the nursing and midwifery workforce for digital transformation.

Known as the Phillips Ives Nursing and Midwifery Review, it was launched in May 2022 and was supposed to be a year long but is still yet to be published. A report is expected to be released this month.

Professor Phillips said she was “really proud” of the work of the review and added: “There’s good recommendations in there that if the profession take forward… it will make a difference.

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“We’ll start to change the way that we educate nurses, so they come out more prepared and able to work with digital tech but also to start leading in this space,” she said.

As an independent consultant, Professor Phillips said she would be able to use her expertise in a different way to influence the digital nursing agenda, noting how the communications policies at national organisations like NHS England could be “limiting”.

“I’m more of a disrupter than a bureaucrat, so being on the outside is helpful,” she added.

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