Wellcome back, leading healthcare CIO James Thomas will leave Atos for major role at global health research charity

By Mark Chillingworth

Wellcome back, leading healthcare CIO James Thomas will leave Atos for major role at global health research charity

Former UCLH CIO James Thomas will become the CTO of the Wellcome Trust in April this year. Thomas, accredited by peers as one of the UK’s leading business technology leaders has been helping major IT supplier Atos refocus its health strategy for the last 12 months.

Based next door to Thomas’ old haunt on Euston Road, central London, the Wellcome Trust is an independent global charity that funds and drives innovation in healthcare and medical research. It also supports public engagement and education in a wide range of areas across the health and science sectors.

The Wellcome building on Euston Road

Thomas, who takes the CTO job title, as Wellcome Trust already has a CIO – chief investment officer – said Wellcome Trust was “on a very short list of organisations I would go to if they needed a technology leader”.

“It is about doing good for others and having the opportunity to significantly help others and realising the value you add. After 12 months I started to seek that out again,” Thomas says of his desire to re-enter healthcare. When Thomas left UCLH at the end of 2014 he told me in an interview that he was wedded to healthcare and didn’t rule out a return.

“Associate Partner as a role is very good, but you are not really in a position to fully transform an organisation. Going the full circle from vision, orchestration and engineering and then seeing the reality in business opportunity and change that is the bit of being a CIO that is really great,” Thomas says.

Thomas is one of the few public sector CIOs to move into the commercial sector and return to a healthcare role. Thomas rates business experience and the value businesses add.

“You look at the Sanger Institute, the funding Wellcome provided for the new Francis Crick Institute and the part funding they gave Genomics England, they have primed change,” he says with clear enthusiasm for his new organisation. The Wellcome Trust also provided emergency funding that led to the development of an effective Ebola vaccine, speeding the delivery of care and enabling effective partnerships across industry, research, NGOs and governments.

“The Wellcome Trust has the ability to act, they have the assets and the ability,” Thomas says.

Thomas will join The Wellcome Trust in April after just over a year at Atos. “Twelve months has gone incredibly quickly.”

Thomas helped Atos bring its various divisions together and realise the scale of services it can offer the health sector and to be clear about its message to health providers.

“We were able to refocus the voice of the customer within Atos and bring together the holistic story and do some horizon scanning across health,” he says. Atos has consultancy, digital transformation and high speed computing, all essential services to health bodies.

“It is creating a national repository of genomic evidence that will be accessible to scientists who can capture, augment and expose this data,”

Thomas’ tenure with Atos also enabled him to become interim CIO of Genomics England a company that belongs to the Department of Health. Genomics England will sequence 100,000 genomes from NHS patients and their families in the fight against rare diseases and cancers.

“It is creating a national repository of genomic evidence that will be accessible to scientists who can capture, augment and expose this data,” he says.

“I chose to be in health and that is a really big tie for me. There is not the roles in health that give the opportunities I want to take up,” Thomas told me in late 2014. The Wellcome Trust is the role with the opportunity.

The BCS and CIO 100, derived and edited by this scribe, have rated Thomas as one of the UK’s leading CIOs.

About Mark Chillingworth 166 Articles
Mark Chillingworth has over 20 years of journalism and editing experience across all media platforms including online, live events, print magazines and television.
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