• Senior NHS England director says work needed to align STP and local digital roadmap areas
  • Comments follow warnings that digital roadmap plans could become “sideshow” to STPs

A senior NHS England director has said work needs to be done to align the “mismatch” between the geographical areas covered by the sustainability and transformation plans and the local digital roadmaps.

NHS England head of technology strategy Paul Rice said at a conference on Wednesday the lack of alignment between the 44 STPs and the 83 local digital roadmaps was a live issue under consideration by the national body.

Paul rice

Paul Rice

The roadmaps are based on ‘well founded, well established relationships’, Paul Rice said

Mr Rice said: “We wanted to get the digital conversation stipulated as early as possible. The STP process came into play following the planning guidance [in December].” The roadmaps were established earlier in 2015.

He continued: “We have a mismatch out there at the moment. We have 83 local digital roadmaps. We have 44 STPs. We have some work to do on that.

“But in principle we asked people in the LDR to organise themselves in the way they felt they could actually be successful to deliver this agenda. So [they are based on] well founded, well established relationships.”

Mr Rice did not elaborate on what sort of action could be taken.

The roadmaps – the first iterations of which need to be submitted to NHS England by the end of this month – are akin to digital versions of the STPs.

Like the STPs, they involve all the health and care providers across an area, but instead of a sustainability plan they are charged with creating strategies for how local health economies will be paperless at the point of care by 2020.

Beverley Bryant, now at NHS Digital but until last month NHS England director of digital technology, said in April that whether or not the digital plans would be restructured to become coterminous with the STP areas would be a “local decision”.

“It is different from place to place how they are managing it. We are not going to dictate [how they do it],” she said.

A number of senior health figures have raised concerns to HSJ about the need for greater alignment between the programmes.

Writing on hsj.co.uk in March, Mark Davies, a former senior NHS director and now medical director at MedeAnalytics, said:A critical enabler for the STP will be the local digital roadmaps. There is a real opportunity to align these initiatives and footprints, which it would be a shame to lose.

“There is a danger that because the [83] footprints and 44 STPs will not be wholly compatible, the local digital roadmaps could simply become a sideshow, the aims of which are far less of a priority for local areas than their STPs.”

Concerns have also been raised about the timetable for the roadmap process. Last month NHS Providers said “an [unspecified] number” of respondents to a survey of 25 directors of informatics from its member organisations viewed the timetable as “unrealistic”.

A statement from NHS Providers said: “Looking at the process so far respondents felt the biggest challenges had been around resources (both time and money) to commit to the project, and that the area that was working well was the regional collaboration. When asked what additional support would be most useful this again focussed on resources.”