Tom Norton

Tom is SCL’s CIO, and has a hands-on approach to the delivery of Digital, Change Management, Transformation, Programme Management and Product Development. Tom’s experience in these areas has spanned various sectors, including Health, Finance & Insurance, Aviation and Manufacturing and Media. Past programmes and implementations have helped Tom to become an experienced leader and facilitator of change, and has enabled him to hone and manage full Benefits Realisation processes seeing benefits to fruition.

Tom has over 18 years experience in leading and delivering IT & Digital services, solutions and projects including the management and accountability for large multi-national teams. Tom enjoys working to long term objectives, and has a strategic focus when managing and delivering technology and transformation.

Competent in the management of internal and external stakeholders and suppliers, and a good communicator, Tom has a pragmatic working approach, ensuring the delivery of objectives whilst meeting business, operational and stakeholder needs.

Tom has a true passion for our national health service, and has huge experience leading technology, digital and transformation portfolios whilst holding board accountability within the NHS.  Prior to this Tom led service delivery and transformation for a private healthcare organisation delivering NHS services across the south of the UK.

Team Spotlight:
Tom Norton

Tom, tell us a little bit about your professional background…

So, I almost accidentally fell into the world of digital just by trying to solve problems. In my first job for Wrigley’s chewing gum I worked on the service desk as a problem solver, fixing IT issues and sorting out challenging problems, which gradually evolved into development, project management and then into leadership of all things digital.

IT solutions, infrastructure, tools and software underpin everything else that we do. So, I’m involved in effectively supporting transformation and I’ve built a career around problem solving and helping organisations improve – it could be a commercial business trying to grow sales, it could be the NHS or Healthcare trying to automate more, digitise more, or deliver more.

My professional career has developed through lots of different industries from food manufacturing, construction, insurance, financial services, aviation, and all the way through to private health care and the NHS.

Generally, the challenges are the same – people want better solutions, better tools, to be more efficient, and to deliver more for their stakeholders – whoever they might be.

I’m sort of their ‘helpful guy’ (well, hopefully helpful!) that assists in pulling it all along. Over time I have gathered a certain amount of experience, meaning I’ve seen things before, done things before, and I know what didn’t quite work, so I genuinely feel quite helpful a lot of the time – which is odd to say! Anyway, that’s really been my professional career development – becoming as helpful as possible, rather than focussing on making as much money as possible – that’s been my aim.

What made you want to work in NHS and Healthcare Consulting?

I probably had a negative view of the NHS before working in and with it – this view was based upon the fact that the NHS costs a lot of money and is reportedly inefficient. I got sucked right into the world of private health provision which is largely backed by private equity funded organisations that feel like they can inject a load of cash and help this unwieldy beast become more affordable and more efficient. I got sucked into that vision and was working on national healthcare records and visualisation tools designed to help present information to clinicians at the point of care.

It was during this time that it dawned on me – whilst working in the private sector, all the effort, and all the strain was effectively increasing the share price for shareholders and I didn’t really like the reticence that working in that environment required towards the many people working extremely hard within the NHS.

So, I decided partway through that journey to jump ship into the NHS and provide the same effort but collaborate on a larger scale within the NHS Family. I probably accepted to do things more slowly, but to do them for the benefit of the NHS and not a private shareholder or equity firm.

I moved into the NHS to do the same job, but with the right long-term gain.

What’s your favourite thing about working in NHS and Healthcare Consulting?

At the moment, because I do an element of consulting, the best bit that I have found is that I get to work on the interesting stuff. And I recognise that it’s a huge luxury – for example, having worked in the NHS as a permanent employee and whilst being on boards and so on, there was a huge chunk of time that I spent doing work that was seen to be ‘necessary’, but wasn’t driving forwards, or being that innovative, or solving problems. From my perspective, I never felt that I was adding the most value in those roles.

The excellent bit about consulting for me is that I still get to work in that same environment with fantastic people. Having jumped in and out of the NHS, I really have noticed when I’ve not been working around NHS people – people that care for others.

I get to take on discrete pieces of work with clearly defined outcomes and objectives and deliver that work. I (sometime on my own, and sometimes in a team) deliver what the organisations we support in many cases are unable to deliver for themselves. It feels good, and it is rewarding – then you get to move on to the next challenging, interesting project.

It took me a while to realise how good that feels because I had spent a long time preserving my love for the NHS as an employee. But, on reflection, I spent much of my time getting stuck in the treacle and the quagmire of the NHS.

What do you find frustrating/ most challenging about working in NHS and Healthcare Consulting, and how do you address that?

I suppose the challenging thing is the general view that consultants, contractors and management consultants (especially), come with an extremely high price tag. For those working in the NHS, working alongside someone who is earning more than you to ultimately to deliver the same thing doesn’t feel great or help you to feel valued… I feel that’s often a barrier to overcome, trying to collaborate and work with people who may start from that negative position.

Genuinely though, as a consultant, I think that not being part of the organisation you are supporting gives you almost a licence to be more critical. You can cut through the layers of hierarchy in the organisation, and you can help people that have been stuck in the same position, feeling unable to challenge. They may not have the licence to challenge their peers or challenge their manager, let alone an IT Director. So, being in this position is great, I can really help them.

The way I overcome this barrier is by genuinely being helpful and proving it by delivering. Regularly at the end of each project, the deliverables that were set out at the beginning were delivered – and everybody wins.

Time and time again we are invited back to organisations. And that’s the test, right? When you’re invited back you know that you’ve added value. And you’ve overcome any barriers, and hopefully overcome any initial negativity towards consultants.

What would you love to achieve in your career in the near future?

It’s an interesting question? I’m genuinely enjoying what I’m doing now and I’m at the point in my life where you start questioning what ‘achievement’ is. I feel that aside from my professional career, I’m probably doing what I need to, to pay for the life that me and my family enjoy. I’ve got a young family and we live quite simply, but we live quite happily. So, in terms of what I want to achieve – I want to achieve a level of sustainment to carry on doing what I’m doing. I don’t need any more and I don’t really aspire to be doing bigger or greater things. So, in the short term, it’d be to fulfil all the obligations that I’ve signed up to now and keep doing what I’m doing, in the hope that it continues.

I hate to use the word ‘unprecedented’ – it’s been overused since the world of COVID – but we are getting to this level where investments and available funds within the NHS are at an all-time stretched position. So, there’s an element of protectiveness. I want to maintain what we have currently, because it is going to be harder for NHS organisations to engage with external consulting firms to deliver what they can’t do themselves. So, I’m slightly nervous about that.

But, having worked on so many engagements and built great relationships across the NHS, and in the knowledge that there are still lots of people out there that need help support, I can simply aspire to continue to be helpful.

If it does come to an end, then I will happily roll up my sleeves and jump back into the NHS to continue to support great people doing great things for others. So, in short, my answer to this question is probably not that inspirational – I simply just want more of the same!

Describe your perfect day outside of work

Answered very simply, it’s two words: ‘the beach’! We moved quite far away from the beach now, in fact we’ve got at least two hours to travel to the closest one – probably North or West Wales. But we found a beautiful beach called Shell Island on the West coast of Wales, just two and a half hours away and it’s simply amazing.

In my view, it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining, shining, or if it’s blowing a gale, if it’s a calm day, or if it’s crashing with waves, or it’s completely silky smooth, you’ve just got to get yourself there! My son (he’s three), he loves the beach. And so does our 5-year-old rescue dog Bruno (he’s a giant Greek Shepherd dog). If it’s a windy day, we hunker down with some blankets and a thermos flask and if it’s a sunny day, we’re lying on towels like everybody else.

Failing that, second best – and it’s quite specific – is an early morning or perhaps a slightly miserable afternoon, walking through the trees when it’s not raining, but there’s still rain falling off the trees. You know that sound of the water dropping? I think it’s about that sound sensation – whether it’s the sea or the wind or rain in the trees – there’s something about it?

I’m now hearing this back to myself and thinking “God, I’m an old man” – “My life has changed”. But that’s all I need. I’m going to hang up now and go for a walk in the forest. See ya!