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Meet the man behind Tim Kelsey

Charlotte Jee | Aug. 5, 2015
Who is Tim Kelsey, the top civil servant in charge of the government's scheme? director Tim Kelsey: the mastermind behind the NHS GP data project
Tim Kelsey

If you've been in the UK for the last two years, you have might have heard of, a troubled government project to extract individuals' GP data and combine them with hospital records in a database.

However it's less likely you've heard of Tim Kelsey, the 50-year-old NHS director ultimately responsible for the scheme.

Despite being lauded for leading attempts to open up public sector data, Kelsey has proved a divisive figure involvement in the initiative. He has also courted controversy following the sale of a company he partly owned to the Department of Health in 2006 - apparently for double its estimated value - leading to criticism from MPs.

Kelsey does not have a typical civil service story.

Born in 1965, he had a top quality education at prestigious private school Wellington College before completing a history degree at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

After graduating he embarked upon a career in journalism for the Independent, BBC, Channel 4 and Sunday Times with stints in Turkey and Iraq, notably covering the 1990 Gulf War.

Kelsey later became an entrepreneur, founding healthcare data company Dr Foster in 1999 with Financial Times journalist Roger Taylor and Stanford graduate Roger Killen. The company now provides analytics services to 85 percent of UK hospitals.

He was appointed by the NHS in 2006 to set up the health service's information website 'NHS Choices'.

Kelsey moved to the Cabinet Office in 2012 to become the UK's first transparency and open data director, personally appointed by PM David Cameron.

He returned to NHS England just months later as patients and information director, a post he still holds. mastermind

However this bland version of his CV disguises what a controversial figure Kelsey is.

He is the main driving force behind, formally launched in May 2013, although he omits to mention the scheme to collect GP records anywhere on his LinkedIn profile. recently restarted with several small-scale pilots this year, but it has been beset by controversies since launch. It was recently labelled 'unachievable' by Whitehall watchdog the Major Projects Authority, which said it should have its future reassessed.

It was supposed to be up and running in all 8,000 GP practices by 2014.

However it was delayed after GP, privacy and patient groups raised concerns about security and the fact only a small minority of the public were aware of the scheme, which requires people to opt out if they do not wish their data to be used.


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