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Meet the Buccaneers: An interview with Matt Neligan

What is a typical day for you at work?

A Train into Leeds, sometimes London, and then a coffee-fuelled dash to the office. After that, I tend to have back-to-back sessions with a wide variety of internal teams and external customers, with a focus on transforming the service offer from NHS Digital to get better and quicker data and statistics into the hands of those who need it. No two days are the same with the huge range of exciting challenges that we have internally, and the vast number of customers who rely on our data services.

What do you like most about your role?

The chance to make a difference to the way in which data and information are used across the NHS – making better decisions and gaining more accurate insight into service performance, quality and outcomes are critical in taking forward our national health and care services.

What do you least like about your role?

Barriers to change – which come in many forms including bureaucracy, culture, politics, complexity. We need to find ways of working constructively and positively, to leap over these barriers.

Other than increasing funding, what one thing would you do to improve NHS IT?

Stimulate a cultural shift in clinicians and managers at the front line, whereby they are seeking digital and technology solutions to their service challenges as their first port of call on how to improve delivery for patients. At present, this can be an afterthought or seen as a token requirement. We’ve made great strides across the NHS and social care, in moving forward with technology, and we need to get to a point where the whole 1.4m workforce is digitally-enabled by default.

If you could only pick one health IT conference or event to attend, which one would it be?

NHS Expo. It blends the technical with the general leadership elements of running services. This is critical for me in helping to make sure that the developments in data, digital and technology are not “siloed” but are a mainstream element of service delivery and improvement in health and care services.

If you wake up in a bad mood, what song would you play to cheer you up?

Ça Plane Pour Moi, by Plastic Bertrand. I can’t help but smile when I hear that ridiculous song. The version by Sonic Youth is just as much fun!

What is number one on your bucket list?

Seeing orangutans in the wild, in Borneo or Sumatra.

If you could be anybody for one day, who would you be and why?

Charles Darwin. It’s his methodical, understated approach to the world-changing insight that he helped to create that makes me admire him. He impulsively took off on a round-the-world adventure as a young man, had the most incredible set of experiences in a short space of time and then spent decades digesting the knowledge that he developed to carefully launch his brilliant theory – working collaboratively with leading experts of the time. We have lots to learn from how he approached changing the world.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An Olympic athlete. Sadly my talent didn’t match my ambition – but it’s worth aiming high!

What is your favourite takeaway meal?
It has to be a dangerously hot curry, shared with friends.