Queensland Health has announced internationally recognised transplant specialist and digital hospital evangelist Professor Keith McNeil is decamping from his role with the NHS and returning to Brisbane to help drive the digital transformation of the state’s hospitals.

Due to take up the newly created position of Assistant Deputy Director General and Chief Medical Information Officer in December, McNeil will bring considerable clinical insight and technical competency to Queensland’s eHealth program.

McNeil has resigned as the UK’s first national Chief Clinical Information Officer for Health and Care after 13 months in the job for what he says are personal and family reasons.

In a statement, McNeil said working in the role has been an enormous privilege.

"There is so much excellent work going on across the NHS at a national level and in hospitals and trusts up and down the country, and although I am returning to Australia for personal and family reasons, I plan to keep a close eye on progress and look forward to seeing the digital transformation program deliver benefits to patients and clinicians over the years to come,” he said.

McNeil has previously worked in Queensland Health as the Head of Transplant Services at The Prince Charles Hospital, CEO at Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive at Metro North.

He will play a critical role in leading the governance of the statewide eHealth roll out, according to Deputy Director General of Queensland Health’s Clinical Excellence Division Dr John Wakefield.

“Keith brings a rare and valuable combination of skills and experience to the role including being an internationally recognised transplant specialist,” Wakefield said.

“His knowledge of, and relationships within, the Queensland Health system combined with his impressive experience in healthcare delivery and eHealth will be a key asset in ensuring that the rollout of eHealth across our hospitals over the next few years will be done safely with maximum benefit for patients and clinicians.”

On the move, Rob Shaw, interim chief executive at NHS Digital, said McNeil has “shown the real value of having a clinical leader driving digital transformation and leading this agenda for health and care”.

“He has been an enigmatic leader to work with and someone I have great respect for as a person as well as a colleague. His integrity and commitment to a single team in terms of delivery is something that I hope we continue to build upon,” Shaw said.

NHS England National Director of Operations and Information Matthew Swindells, said the CCIO has been an “exceptional ambassador” for digital transformation.

“The appointment of a Chief Clinical Information Officer at the centre of the NHS sent out a positive signal to the system and has encouraged organisations across the country to increase the status of their IT chiefs and CCIOs, and we intend to fill the vacancy with a new CCIO shortly.”

But McNeil’s time in the UK hasn’t been without controversy. Prior to his current NHS role, McNeil was CCIO at Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust during an Epic electronic patient record implementation – the first in the UK – that was “fraught with problems”.

He resigned amid criticism of the $335 million eHospital program and an investigation into the trust’s finances by regulator Monitor.

The Epic system is now considered to be one of the UK’s best.