Health Secretary unveils fresh investment to digitally transform hospitals across the country

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has unveiled fresh investment for NHS trusts to transform their digital capability.

NHSX is funding 32 trusts through its Digital Aspirant programme - designed to help frontline organisations build the digital skills to deliver healthcare that is safe, efficient and fit for 21st century needs.

Seven trusts will receive up to £6m over three years to help deliver their digital ambitions - whilst a further 25 trusts will receive seed funding of £250,000 to develop their digital strategy and business cases.

The Digital Aspirant programme supports organisations to deliver a set of core capabilities and is designed to reduce the gap between the levels of digitisation across the NHS.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, said:

“First, we need to digitise more of the NHS that is not yet digitised. The starring role that healthtech has played in our response was no accident. It comes off the back of the relentless investment in the fundamentals.

“Last year NHSX launched the Digital Aspirant programme, the first wave helped 27 Trusts to boost their digital infrastructure and today I’m delighted to announce that we’re launching our next wave.

“And of course we’ll be offering further waves of funding in the years ahead. To do this, we’ll focus on all parts of the NHS.”

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said:

“We want to see all parts of the NHS join the digital transformation journey, and this programme is key to supporting those organisations that need more assistance.

“Digitising frontline services is at the heart of NHSX and it is the bedrock upon which we are continuing to build the capability to deliver healthcare that is safe, efficient and fit for today’s needs.”

Today’s funding announcement follows a first round of funding for 27 trusts that joined the programme last year and brings the total number of trusts on the programme to 59.

Despite the challenges of coronavirus the first wave have already made excellent progress:

  • St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals has completed its rollout of telehealth across almost 50 specialities; introduced technology to digitise the handover of referrals between and within specialist teams - with some wards reporting it saves them around 15 minutes on ward handovers; and they have rolled out an electronic prescribing and medicines administration (ePMA) system across all adult inpatient and in outpatient areas, and in ED for patients with a decision to admit - completely removing any paper transcription and rewriting in inpatient areas and for admissions from ED resulting in improved patient safety across the Trust.
  • 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; the focus has now switched to a new e-prescribing system which will go live in October and a new electronic observation and vital signs technology that is currently being tested before being rolled out across paediatrics and maternity this summer.
  • Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has amongst other work 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 NEWS2 and allows the Trust’s command centre to understand the level of acuity across the hospital, and organise additional support where required.

Additional waves of providers and systems, including the 25 supported with seed funding, will be encouraged to apply to become fully signed up Digital Aspirants when their plans are in place and they are ready to use digital technology as a key element of their transformation plans.

Sonia Patel, Chief Information Officer at NHSX, said:

“Our ambition is to level-up NHS Trusts to ensure they have the critical digital foundations to operate in a modern NHS.

“Today marks the second of what will be many waves of Digital Aspirants and I would encourage those not receiving funding today to work on their plans so they can join a future wave of the programme.”

The new Digital Aspirants will be able to benefit from the shared learning already available through the blueprints that showcase how many of the Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) Trusts transformed their own services.

NHSX is also developing the What Good Looks Like (WGLL) framework that will set out a common vision for good digital practice to empower frontline leaders to accelerate digital transformation in their organisations.

It will provide a comprehensive and practical set of tools, guidelines, and best practices for NHS leaders to achieve meaningful digital transformation.

See our Digital Aspirants page for a full list of NHS trusts receiving funding.