September 9, 2021

Toby Avery

Chief Digital Information Officer,
Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Trust

Toby is no ordinary CIO. His empathetic, compassionate leadership approach sets him apart. Toby is at the forefront of the emerging transformational leader that is “CIO 3.0”. Toby can be credited for building a trusted and highly valued Digital service at SABP. However, it is his position on the board and as an executive peer that he thrives in being able to guide the organisation and partners to adapt and redefine the way we do things using digital approaches not limited to providing technology but using it as a catalyst for putting people at the heart of rethinking what we do. Toby’s ethos manifests nowhere more clearly than the trust he puts in his teams and the environment he has nurtured to enable others to learn and thrive.
Toby’s drive for professionalism is showcased in his PgDip in Digital Healthcare Leadership gained as part of cohort 1 of the NHS Digital Academy, BCS Fellowship, FEDIP Leading Practitioner and CHIME CHCIO status. He is a role model for fellow digital professionals investing in their learning and development.

Our five reasons why Toby deserves to be CIO of the year:
1. Revolutionary vision and critical thinker
2. Resilience
3. Change Enabler & supporter
4. Trusted values
5. Compassionate leadership

By establishing a team of creative thinkers and visionary leaders from IT and clinical backgrounds. He created were the driving force for change and able to disrupt the status quo by:
• Bringing existing services into Digital, such as the Analytics and Information Governance teams, to create a ‘better fit’.
• Opening the door to a diversity of new talent who are designing and delivering new services
• Providing space, guidance and support to develop new ways of working – breaking silos and promoting use of multidisciplinary teams and co-design methodology with clinical and operational staff and service users.
• Influencing their senior leadership peers on the value of Digital in the long term, leveraging that influence to gain investment into Digital growth and providing assurance through clear and transparent engagement.
In 2019 Toby became Chief Digital & Information Officer taking on a wider portfolio and joining the executive board of the Trust. Digital are now recognised as vital to developing and delivering services. It is rare that Digital is represented at such a high level in an NHS Trust and is testament to Toby’s vision and resilience to succeed.

When Covid became a reality Toby had the right resources to mobilise a team to plan and deliver the Digital response allowing a rapid, ‘go early, go hard’ response. Despite the challenges we faced there was a positive outcome; the Trust demanded new ways of working and new technologies; adoption was fast, and the Trust’s eyes were open to future possibilities. Toby’s determination and vision has reached a major milestone.

Other material:
As a Director, Toby was heavily involved in the Trust’s Covid plans. Yet he always remains part of the Digital family and like many colleagues Toby rolled up his sleeves in delivering technology to care homes and staff.
2020 was a difficult year for all of us. Aware of the challenge lockdown presented he introduced regular online Digital Catchups that provided us with a space to say hello and talk and ask questions. Their value can’t be underestimated, and they continue today.

This year he has committed to meeting all 130 people across the directorate giving them time to talk to him on a one-to-one basis.

His support has been recognised at an executive level. As part of the executive response his compassion, focus and expertise supported and assured his peer group during Covid.

“I have particularly appreciated Toby as “go to” colleague throughout the challenges and difficulties of the last 18 months. I feel very lucky to have Toby as a colleague and I know we are very lucky to have him as a leader in our Trust”

Toby never stops learning. As part of the Trust’s Reverse Mentoring programme, he buddies up with a colleague from an ethnic background to raise awareness of the experiences and challenges faced by BME colleagues, walking in their shoes and developing diversity advocates at the highest level.

As a blogger and public speaker, he reflects on his Digital journey with his peer community and is often called on for his expertise from peers and wider leaders such as the NHS Providers Digital Boards Team.
Perhaps the best reflection of his supportive, compassionate leadership is our submissions of Helen Potter and Mark Kenny for this year’s Future Digital Leaders award. This is testament to why he deserves to be CIO of the Year.

Further reading:
Read the Digital Strategy online:

Follow Toby on Twitter:

Read Toby’s blog: