Valerie’s interest in joining the NHS began when she started university, where all of her classmates were NHS employees. After ten years in retail, her transition to the NHS came when one of her colleagues introduced her to a role within the organisation as a Business Operations Officer.
From there, she moved into health records management, which was the first step on her information governance journey. Following this, she moved through various information governance roles before moving up to information governance management.
Her recent projects have included bringing in a document management system within health records and introducing a new system to the NHS for the management of freedom of information requests.
We spoke to Valerie as part of our series of articles on female tech leaders within the NHS, to find out more about her role, her passions and what she thinks the future holds for tech in the NHS.
Although information governance and data governance are terms which are often used interchangeably, there is a key difference. Whereas data is the collection of facts and information is how you understand those facts within context . Information governance is highly valuable for NHS organisations because it provides a framework for how things should be governed.
“It steers you into the right direction, which is the compliance direction. Because without that, if everybody did what they wanted to do, then you have a place that has no rule, and nobody’s going to be accountable or responsible for anything.”
In order to be successful in an information governance role, Valerie believes the key is knowledge. When you are working on projects such as freedom of information, where the disclosure of data which is so heavily governed by FOI Act , it is vital to have the knowledge that you are doing things by the book.
“I would say you need to possess some form of experience, you really do need that, and also have that legal knowledge. The reason why I say experience as well as legal knowledge is because you have to be able to interpret the law.”
The challenges for Valerie come from the contractor nature of her role. Moving from organisation to organisation, where cultures and processes may be very different, can be difficult and there is a lot to learn with each change. Valerie enjoys meeting the challenge each time, and completing each project successfully.
“My passion is always to better things, this is why I like my role. We’re more like troubleshooters, you go into organisations and you are only given a limited amount of months to fix things. I’m used to working that way. That is my passion, to go in and make a difference wherever I go.”
For anyone new to information governance, Valerie recommends spending time in roles surrounding Subject Access Request or Freedom of Information in order to gain the knowledge required to do the job properly. Because of the importance of experience in the role, it is crucial to work your way up gaining knowledge as you go.
Information governance is a wide ranging task that is never fully complete. New laws are brought in all the time, and processes can always be improved. Whilst this brings interest to a constantly changing role, it is important to leave projects with a process that is not just compliant but also well-recorded.
“It’s always progressive, there’s always going to be something new. You always have to keep on top of things making sure you have processes in place. For most organisations that I’ve worked for, we tend to find that people will do things, but they’re not written down. I would always advice organisations that I’ve worked with to make sure that we have those processes in place that align with guidelines and policies. .”
The future of information governance will use artificial intelligence heavily, and that is something that the NHS is already introducing into trusts. Valerie is enthusiastic about this more modern way of working and the excellent outcomes it will bring.
“I’m a person who encourages anything to do with innovative ways of working. , A lot of organisations are being very innovative and I think the NHS are actually embracing that as well. In the past there wasn’t focus on new systems in the NHS, but as new blood filters through the NHS, it’s being embraced.”
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