• South Central, West Midlands and North East ambulance services picked for digital exemplar programme
  • They will receive less funding that acute and mental health exemplar trusts
  • News comes as cuts are expected to NHS technology funding

The first ambulance trusts have been chosen to join NHS England’s global digital exemplar programme but they will receive far less funding than acute and mental health providers.

NHS England announced today that South Central, West Midlands and North East ambulance services will be funded to improve their IT systems.

The GDE programme is based on funding already digitally advanced trusts to develop models for less digitally mature providers to follow.

The ambulance trusts will receive £5m of central funding to share between them, to be matched by local funds.

This is substantially less than funding announced for the 16 acute exemplars, which will receive up to £10m of central funding each, and the seven mental health exemplars, which will receive up to £5m each.

NHS chief information officer Will Smart said the ambulance element of the GDE programme will be run differently than the mental health and acute parts.

Instead of developing separate blueprints, the three trusts will be expected to work together to develop ways of using digital technology for other ambulance services to follow.

Mr Smart said: “By stepping up to become world class, these three trusts will join the most digitally advanced healthcare organisations across the globe and help deliver a sustainable and transformed NHS.”

Professor Jonathan Benger, national clinical director for urgent and emergency care at NHS England, said: “Digital technology has the potential to transform ways of working and improve patient care in ambulance trusts, from ensuring paramedics can access a patient’s medical record to improving trust efficiency in systems behind the scenes.”

NHS England said the total investment in the GDE programme is now £280m.

However, figures from the Department of Health and Social Care, reported by HSJ earlier this week, shows most of this money has not been released to trusts.

Overall funding for technology programmes in the NHS is also under threat, as NHS England diverts funding to pay for cybersecurity improvements.