• New assessment gives clearest picture yet of NHS’s digital maturity, experts tell HSJ
  • HSJ analysis shows overall scores for all trusts on digital index
  • NHS England warns against using data as a league table

A new NHS England assessment of “digital maturity” across the NHS lays bare significant variation among providers, HSJ can reveal.

Experts told HSJ the new data painted the clearest picture yet of how well the provider sector is using technology – but gave warnings about the data’s limitations because it is based on self assessment.

To create the digital maturity index, every NHS provider was asked to rate itself on a range of metrics covering three overarching areas: readiness, existing capabilities and enabling infrastructure (see box below for explanation).

The data from 239 organisations will be used in tandem with “local digital roadmaps”, currently being drawn up by the service locally, to analyse and monitor progress against a flagship NHS target to have paperless at the point of care services by 2020.

Crucially, the index will also be used alongside the roadmaps to make decisions about which organisations to allocate a share of around £1.3bn of technology funding to.

HSJ calculated the total score and average score across the three areas to show an indication of overall digital maturity.

The national average score across the three themes was 60. The average score for readiness was 73, 40 for capabilities and 68 for enabling infrastructure. All scores are out of 100.

The HSJ analysis reveals Salford Royal, University Hospitals Birmingham and Liverpool Women’s Hospital foundation trusts scored themselves the highest overall across the three themes (see table below).

Salford Royal scored itself an average of 93 out of 100 for each theme. UHB scored 89 and Liverpool 87. These three organisations were already widely viewed as having made good progress on the digital agenda.

TrustReadinessCapabilitiesEnabling infrastructureTotal score across all three areasAverage score
Salford Royal Hospitals Foundation Trust 99 83 98 280 93.3
University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust 95 75 98 268 89.3
Liverpool Womens Hospital Foundation Trust 99 62 100 261 87
Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust 87 79 89 255 85
South Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust 96 69 89 254 84.7

Meanwhile, Devon Partnership Trust, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn, and Norfolk and Suffolk foundation trusts scored themselves lowest across the three categories (see table below).

Devon Partnership scored an average of 26 out of 100 for each theme. Queen Elizabeth scored 27 and Norfolk and Suffolk 32.

TrustReadinessCapabilitiesEnabling infrastructureTotal score across all three areasAverage score
Devon Partnership Trust 28 16 34 78 26
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn Foundation Trust 35 14 32 81 27
Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust 34 31 30 95 31.7
London Ambulance Service Trust 34 15 53 102 34
Royal Surrey County Hospital Trust 36 25 43 104 34.7

HSJ has compiled aggregated scores for all the 239 organisations which completed the assessment. NHS England has told HSJ the assessments should not be used as a league table, because the process was about peer support rather than performance management.

NHS England director of digital technology Beverley Bryant told HSJ that NHS providers’ overall digital maturity was in “a better position than we had hoped for”.

She continued: “In terms of the three areas, the ‘readiness’ is quite high. Capabilities is lower, and there quite a job to do there. The infrastructure position is pretty mixed. Some in green, some in amber and some with quite a lot to do.”

Ms Bryant said: “This gives us the first really useful view of where the system is up to in adopting digital working practices.

“But we’re really keen not to do a ranking or a league table. That would give the message we are coming at this from a performance management perspective but actually we are coming at this from a support and development perspective.

“There are groups at the top, groups in the middle and groups at the bottom end, rather than it being a straight A to Z.”

Ms Bryant said that, although the index was based on self-assessment, it was a “very comprehensive data set” and she was confident about “the robustness of the analysis”. Auditors had validated the data, she said.

Health technology experts familiar with the index told HSJ that aggregating the scores across the three areas gives a “fair, broad brush” representation of the data.

However, the sources urged caution about the robustness of the data and using it to directly compare organisations, because it was collected via self-assessment, and compares a large range of very different organisations, including acute, mental health and ambulance trusts.

The use of a self assessment data collection method means there could be differences in interpretation, sources said.

Explainer: the digital maturity assessment

NHS England gathered the data for its digital maturity index via self assessment questionnaires.

The self assessment had three main overarching themes. The metrics in each of the three areas gave a total score of 100 per theme.

The themes are:

  • Readiness: an assessment of the organisation’s ability to plan, deliver and optimise the digital systems it needs to operate paper-free at the point of care.
  • Capabilities: an assessment of the digital capabilities available to that organisation and the extent to which those capabilities are available and being optimised across the organisation as a whole.
  • Enabling infrastructure: an assessment of the extent to which the underpinning infrastructure is in place to support delivery of these capabilities.

Read the full methodology here.

Source: NHS England guidance


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