Major boost to Wales’ healthcare workforce development and research


A major boost to Wales’ digital health information and research capacity will be achieved through the expansion of the Wales Institute of Digital Information (WIDI).

A major boost to Wales’ digital health information and research capacity will be achieved through the expansion of the Wales Institute of Digital Information (WIDI).

WIDI is a joint initiative between the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), the NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) and the University of South Wales (USW), which has recently joined the partnership.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the three organisations during an online event held on 9 December which reinforced WIDI’s aim to enhance digital workforce development and research in health and care. Together, the three organisations will increase the digital skills and competence of the healthcare workforce and will seek to enable digital transformation and usage through research, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, big data, data science, Internet of Thing (IoT), and medical imaging.

The creation of WIDI in 2017 established a strategic partnership between NWIS and UWTSD which included the relocation of NWIS’s South West Wales base to the University’s SA1 Swansea Waterfront development. The move signalled a new working relationship between the organisations which has led to the development of a number of initiatives, including the development of digital degree apprenticeships, linked to health data management, and which has facilitated NWIS’s work in delivering the national information and technology needed for modern patient care and over seventy digital services to users across NHS Wales and to other parts of the United Kingdom. Now, USW, which announced a strategic alliance with UWTSD last summer, joins the partnership increasing WIDI’s capacity and capability to create a digitally confident and competent population in Wales.

Helen Thomas, interim Director of NWIS said: “The signing of the Wales Institute of Digital Information (WIDI) Memorandum of Understanding today, between the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the University of South Wales and NWIS, is another great step along our journey linking NWIS & academia. The current partnership has seen great opportunities for our staff with the Health Informatics educational offering and now moving into the area of research.

“The opportunities to develop even closer working relationships with the academic institutions through WIDI will enable us to become a world leading partnership in public sector digital healthcare. This will offer substantial staff development for everyone working in digital healthcare as well as giving us as an organisation the benefits of having access to experts in research and innovation both here in Wales and on the global stage.

“As we move into a new era with the establishing of ‘Digital Health and Care Wales’ in April 2021, I am confident that the WIDI alliance will move from strength to strength in its evolution and look forward to expanding our collaboration with our colleagues at the two universities with taking forward a digital health agenda”.

WIDI has already established a significant network of contacts which includes health and social care providers as well as blue light and third sector organisations. Through WIDI, the NHS Informatics Service has access to the talent of students and graduates by providing part-time employment opportunities, work placements and internships, as well as enabling the professional development of staff within NWIS, many of whom are undertaking doctoral studies. 

During the event Professor Wendy Dearing, Head of the Institute of Management and Health at UWTSD and director of WIDI and Professor Ian Wells, also a director of WIDI, who were both instrumental in the establishment of WIDI, provided an outline of current projects including the development of a new Master’s programme in Research. In addition, Helen Thomas and Andrew Griffiths, Chair and CEO of the Federation for Informatics Professionals in health and care (FEDIP) and former Chief Information Officer of NWIS, were named Professors of Practice at UWTSD in recognition of their professional distinction and expertise in the field of health informatics.

Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice-Chancellor of UWTSD, commented: “I’m delighted to sign a Memorandum of Agreement to enhance WIDI’s current offer and that Helen Thomas and Andrew Griffiths will assume the roles of Professors of Practice. Our students will benefit greatly from their expertise and experience to develop the higher levels skills needed to respond to the technological disruption which is taking place all around them”. 

“The establishment of WIDI is an example of the way in which UWTSD is redefining the University experience for students, staff and our partners. Together we aim to produce a generation of digital transformers, entrepreneurs and leaders for the healthcare sector in Wales. It has never been more pressing for the healthcare sector to harness cutting-edge technology to help solve real-world problems. 

“The development of such strategic partnerships is a part of the University’s transformation agenda that aims to improve access to higher education and skills development that is relevant to local communities and employers, enhances graduate employability, and enables the University to fulfil its potential of contributing to the economic regeneration of Wales, particularly as we emerge from this pandemic."

Professor Julie Lydon, OBE, Vice-Chancellor of USW, added: “The University of South Wales is delighted to be joining this exciting and innovative partnership, and to add even greater expertise to the WIDI initiative.

“As an institution, USW has a wide range of knowledge in a number of areas relevant to the venture, including a detailed focus on Data Science, and how Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things will impact on the world around us.  

“It is also gratifying to see how this project will give USW students a chance to be involved in developments, and to get first-hand experience of what will be expected of them once they graduate and enter the world of work.

“Across USW, our primary objective is to give those who study with us an understanding of their chosen future role, and how they can develop the skills, through us, to build a successful career in the sector in which they choose to work. This will fit in perfectly with the aspiration.  

“It is also a very welcome example of the strategic alliance between USW and UWTSD, agreed earlier this year, which cemented a closer working partnership between the universities.

“This partnership is an excellent example of how closer working between our two universities can benefit the partners we work with, the students who study at the institutions, and the wider South Wales community.”

Note to Editor


Andrew Griffiths

Andrew is the Chair and CEO of the Federation for Informatics Professionals in health and care (FEDIP). FFEDIP was established by the professional bodies, with a mission to professionalise the informatics community in the UK in Health and Social Care. It has dual core purposes encompassing the 2 functions of Voluntary registration/regulation and Developing the Health and Care Informatics profession.

Before taking up this position Andrew was the CIO for NHS Wales for 10 years. He began his career in medical records, implementing a Patient Administration system before joining the graduate management scheme. Having spent time in various IT roles within the NHS Andrew then left for two years to be the managing Director of a company supplying services and systems to the NHS. He then re-joined the NHS in Wales to establish a national organisation to develop and implement the Informing health care strategy, three years later he then led the development of a new organisation (NWIS) which brought together the strategy, implementation and delivery IT organisations in NHS Wales.

Helen Thomas

Helen took up the role of interim Director at the NHS Wales Informatics Service in December, 2019, leading the organisation’s impressive response to the Covid-19 pandemic, supporting the NHS in Wales to adopt data and digital advances at pace and scale, whilst at the same time leading the organisation as it transitions to a Special Health Authority by 1st April 2021.

She joined the NHS Wales Informatics Service as Director of Information in 2017 and has been instrumental in supporting the improved quality and use of data in healthcare and the development of the new National Data Resource – the NDR.

Previously, she was the Assistant Director of Information at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board, with responsibility for setting the strategic direction for data and digital and providing the information needed to evaluate service delivery and to support service improvement and transformation.

Helen began her career in the NHS 30 years ago, initially working in finance, moving into health information in 2000, gaining wide health informatics experience across a number of senior roles over the last 20 years. Helen has an MSc in Health Informatics from Swansea University and is a leading practitioner of the Federation of Informatics Professionals and a fellow of the British Computer Society.

Helen is passionate about driving the use of data and intelligence to support improvement, service transformation and patient outcomes and has more recently supported the development of the national Value Based Healthcare information strategy.

NHS Informatics Service

NHS Wales Informatics Service is the national organisation delivering technology and first-class digital health systems and services needed for modern patient care in Wales.

We are committed to working in partnership with all NHS Wales organisations to modernise, enhance and provide the best technology for our nation’s healthcare and support a responsible digital future for NHS Wales.

Since health and social care in Wales was devolved in 1999, Wales has set its own distinctive approach to health and care provision. Integration and co-operation between health organisations is a key tenet of our nation’s healthcare policy, along with a commitment to avoid duplication and ‘do things once for Wales’.

The NHS Wales Informatics Service was established in 2010 with responsibility to develop, deliver and support the health and care technology used throughout Wales.

Today, we’re helping NHS Wales meet the challenge of 21st century digital healthcare with innovative systems produced by both developers and clinicians, dedicated software and hardware support, improved information sharing, the introduction of online services for patients, and the development of future generations of healthcare IT specialists.

University of South Wales: With students from more than 100 countries, the University of South Wales (USW) Group has campuses in three of the region’s major population centres, Cardiff, Pontypridd and Newport. It also has two subsidiaries, Wales’ national conservatoire, the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, and The College Merthyr Tydfil.

As a leading university for careers, USW works together with employers to achieve its key aims - to make higher education more accessible, build challenge-based learning that equips graduates with transferable skills, to offer flexible learning opportunities, and to strengthen the communities it serves

These objectives are enhanced by USW’s partnerships with a number of leading international and local employers, including Thales, TATA Steel, Celtic Manor, the FAW Trust, Ricardo, and Cisco, and various public sector bodies, including police forces and the National Health Service.

The industrial connections that shape USW’s research culture make it genuinely international, multilingual and outward-looking. Our research is directly affecting people and cultures in all parts of the world.

University of Wales Trinity Saint David is part of the UWTSD Group, a confederation of several institutions, which includes the University of Wales, as well as Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion as constituent colleges. The Group offers a continuum from FE to HE for the benefit of learners, employers and communities. 

UWTSD’s vision is to be a University with a commitment to the well-being and heritage of the nation at the heart of all its activities. Central to the vision is the promotion and embedding of a dual-sector educational system which educates learners of all ages and backgrounds, and stimulates economic development in the region, across Wales and beyond

The University’s was founded in 1822 and will celebrate its bicentenary in 2022.  Its 1828 Royal Charter is the oldest of any university in Wales.  The University’s campuses are located in Swansea Carmarthen, Lampeter, Cardiff and London and it has a Learning Centre in Birmingham. 

UWTSD is committed to placing students at the centre of its mission by providing a relevant and inspiring bilingual curriculum, providing a supportive learning environment, investing in its campuses and facilities and ensuring that students, from all backgrounds, are given the opportunity to achieve their potential.  

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

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