Our new Digital Aspirants

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the way health and care have used digital technology to support the delivery of safe, high quality care. We made more progress in a few months than we would have done in the same number of years.

This change has been built on the digital capabilities of the NHS. But the foundation is patchy - too many parts of the system do not yet have the basics in place. The Digital Aspirant programme helps NHS trusts raise their digital maturity. Just before the first lockdown I announced the first 23 trusts to take part in our Digital Aspirant programme. One year on, at Digital Health Rewired today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the second cohort of Digital Aspirants: 32 more trusts will now join those already participating in the programme.

Seven will get up to £6m each over the next three years. The rest will get £250k seed funding to help them develop business cases for further digital investment.

Our first Digital Aspirants have made huge progress despite - or often driven by - the pressures of the pandemic.

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals has rolled out telehealth across almost 50 specialties. This work was a crucial part of the trust’s response to the pandemic, enabling them to provide safe outpatient care remotely.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has fixed a number of historical issues with their IT infrastructure - including upgrading their wireless network, clinical servers and software upgrades as well as installing 500 additional wireless access points.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has implemented a patient deterioration tile - visible on all trust computers and large screens in most ward areas - that allows staff to identify and prioritise care to deteriorating patients in line with National Early Warning Score (NEWS2) observations. Designed to identify deterioration, it allows the trust’s command centre to understand the level of acuity across the hospital, and organise additional support where required.

We don’t want everyone to reinvent the wheel, so we have made sharing learning a core part of the programme. The Global Digital Exemplar created over 160 blueprints - simple, step-by-step guides that Digital Aspirants are now using. They in turn will produce blueprints of their own.

The Digital Aspirant programme is one strand of our effort to help the frontline. In the coming weeks we will publish our What Good Looks Like framework, setting out guidance for good digital practice to help frontline leaders. Our Who Pays For What guidance will make it clear what those leaders need to pay for themselves. Our information governance (IG) guidance will make it easier to share data safely. Our commercial frameworks are making it easier and faster to buy effective, compliant tech. The Microsoft deal saved everyone time and money.

The common theme is making it as easy as possible for frontline leaders to get digital right. That isn’t necessarily heroic or headline-grabbing, but I am convinced it will be our biggest contribution to helping the NHS navigate the years ahead.

NHSX is providing up to £6m over the next three years to help the following trusts to deliver their digital ambitions:

  • University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust
  • Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
  • West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

NHSX is helping the following trusts develop their digital strategy and business cases:

  • Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
  • United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  • The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust
  • South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust
  • George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust
  • Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
  • East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust
  • North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust
  • Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust
  • Airedale NHS Foundation Trust
  • North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
  • Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust (working in collaboration with Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust)
  • University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Cheshire NHS Trust
  • University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust