“Never assume there is nothing new to learn”

Chief Information Officer at Connect Health, Graeme Fletcher speaks with North East Times around his experiences in driving forward technological innovation at a company-wide level.

17 March 2020


Graeme Fletcher is the chief information officer at Connect Health, the largest, independent provider of integrated community MSK (musculoskeletal) services in the UK, serving more than 350,000 NHS patients per year. With a background in IT and product engineering, Graeme joined the business 18 months ago to drive technology innovation. This has included embracing AI to provide ‘virtual workers’

One of the first lessons I learned was that however confident and assured you may be, it’s quite possible you are wrong.

I learned that from myself. When I started out, I had an innate sense of being right, then a situation arose where I drove through my own conviction, against advice from others, and I got it wrong, which badly impacted me and some of the team around me. I’d still rather take a decision than not, but now I’m armed with the knowledge it might be wrong and can mitigate.


It’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done.

In a business context, what I mean by that is that I’d always advise grabbing an opportunity when it presents itself, even if you may not feel 100 percent ready, as you may not get the same chance again, and you’d hate to look back and think ‘what if…?’


I’d say the key qualities needed to run a successful business are tenacity, patience, bravery, commitment, empathy and a very strong belief in what you are doing.

You can get away without having all of the above, but if you have them, then in my view you’ll have a strong foundation.


Think long and hard about whether you personally have the necessary skills and experience to lead your business to the next level.

Connect Health is an extremely fast-growing business and it fared very well under the guiding hand of its founder Professor Andrew Walton, but he reached out where he knew he needed to bring in other people to help him scale, which involved developing technology, infrastructure and operational efficiency in patient pathways. We have grown even faster since. One example is Connect Health’s Intelligent Automation programme, which is the integration of ‘virtual workers’ into some referral management centre processes, namely the registration of patients onto clinical systems. We receive more than 1000 patient referrals each day, and the company has a duty to register patients within 48 hours, so cutting this time will significantly speed up patient access to care.


Never assume there is nothing new to learn.

There is never a day goes by that I’m not surprised, in a good way, especially in the world of technology, but I think you have to have an open and curious mindset to not let that overwhelm you. If you think you know it all, and then keep finding you don’t, you’ll be constantly disheartened.


I go to my coach for advice from a professional/personal point of view.

Having someone you trust, but makes you dig deep and find your own answers, is extremely liberating. I’d encourage networking more widely, maybe joining organisations such as Dynamo North East, as the connections and advice you receive can be invaluable.


It is important to give staff clear goals and parameters, trust and empower them, make sure they feel accountable – and then get out of their way!

Almost without fail, your people will know best how to get things done. Never forget to say thank you and encourage them to have a little fun along the way.

Read the editorial on North East Times Magazine here