September 9, 2021

Prof Graham Evans

Chief Digital Officer,
North East and North Cumbria ICS

1. Graham has skilfully navigated the challenges of working in an incredibly complex health and care sector eco-system. With 10 CCGs, 11 trusts, 10 local authorities and a population of 3.6million – with the worst health outcomes and inequalities in the country. He has provided inspiring leadership and a clear vision for what our region wants to achieve over the next five years – all whilst dealing with the challenges of the COVID pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the regional digital strategy which was written just one year before had to be updated as the pace at which digital technology was implemented across the region was greatly accelerated in some areas, or halted in others. Graham brought the region together to co-produce and design this new strategy.

2.Being in a regional role means engaging with and influencing local stakeholders -and all the challenges that brings, as well as dealing with the mire of challenges and demands thrown out of the centre around funding allocations. Graham is greatly respected across the region and navigates this spectacularly. Being a CIO is not just about having the right technical skills and knowledge – its far more about being able to work with others and get them to connect with your vision.

3. Graham has also implemented a new governance structure for digital programmes. This was a herculean effort to transform how our complex and multi-agency programmes were overseen. This presented political and organisational challenges which Graham has skilfully navigated. All of this was done during the pandemic. The previous structure was not effective so this new structure, although more complex has emerged to manage the complexity of the system we operate within.

4. He has another day job too – as CIO of one of our local trusts – so taking on both this and a regional role is nothing short of superhuman.

5. As someone who has worked with Graham for a number of years – starting out as a lowly administrator’s assistant, I can say how well he treats all staff at all levels equally with respect. I don’t know how he finds the time to fit all this in – he always takes time to thank staff and show his appreciation. A trait I have never seen in any other senior leader.

Other material:
When they made Graham, they through away the mould – as a kinder more generous person with his skills and time you will not find within the NHS. He is an influencer and takes part in several leadership groups, where he plays differing roles from chair. to participant he always ensures everyone has a voice.
Graham has an ability to make everyone feel equal, he consistently treats all colleagues and peers at all levels with the utmost of respect, and in turn, in my opinion, is very highly respected and held in high regard across the NENC ICS region and nationally. This level of authenticity and credibility is crucial in ensuring optimal regional engagement and the success of the region’s digital ambitions.

Graham was at the forefront of the development of the first NENC ICS Digital Strategy in 2019 and the more recently redeveloped NENC ICS Digital Strategy in 2020. His strong leadership ensured optimal engagement, successful development, approval, and its publication in December 2020. The work to produce the refreshed Strategy was conducted during the first peak of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic; a time when Health and Care colleagues were under unprecedented levels of pressure. However, they still acknowledged the importance of the Strategy development and their involvement and engagement across a number of virtually delivered workshops and events is testament to Graham’s leadership.

In March 2020, in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, Graham led the initiation of an NENC ICS wide Digital Response Cell. The Cell was stood up at pace, including establishing appropriate governance, controls and reporting mechanisms, within the same day that regional colleagues agreed it was needed. The remit of the Cell was to act as a guiding coalition; providing senior digital leadership to optimise safety, quality and value for all local digital response plans. The Cell convened twice weekly from 18th March 2020 through to 11th June 2020. Again, the collaboration and engagement I believe is testament to Graham’s strong, supportive leadership and his ethos of collaboration.

Graham is passionate about ‘levelling up’ and often coins the phrase ‘as a region, we will only ever be as strong as our weakest link’. He has supported the region in funding bids to bring organisations with lower levels of digital maturity up to higher levels of digital maturity.

Further reading:
Regional digital strategy work led by Graham is available as an interactive pdf, and in animation form.

Please see this link to a Digital Health webinar, where Professor Graham Evans was on the speaker panel, focussing on the North East and North Cumbria Digital response to COVID-19.

Please see the following link to a BBH article, where Professor Graham Evans told a meeting of Highland Marketing executives that more needs to be done to ensure the NHS achieves digital maturity.