• Fourteen mental health trusts in contention for digital funding
  • Six trusts will receive £5m each
  • Announcement on more acute trust digital exemplars and an area-wide exemplar also expected soon

Fourteen mental health trusts are vying to secure up to £5m of central funding as part of the digital exemplars programme, HSJ understands.

Six of the shortlisted trusts, which include Tavistock and Portman, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and South Essex Partnership University foundation trusts (see the full list below), will be selected in the coming weeks, sources familiar with the process told HSJ.

Decisions on which trusts will get funding in a second tranche of allocations for acute trusts, as well as a health economy-wide digital exemplar, are also expected in the coming weeks.

The mental health trusts will become “national exemplars” and in addition to the funding, will receive other central support to deliver projects that NHS England hopes will provide models for other trusts to follow.

The news follows health secretary Jeremy Hunt announcing in September, in response to the Wachter review of NHS IT, 12 acute trusts would receive up to £10m to become “global exemplars”, and a further 20 trusts would become “national” champions of digital technology and get up to £5m.

There is a wide variation between the 14 mental health trusts in terms of their location and current digital capabilities, according to the digital maturity index – a self-assessment completed by all NHS and foundation trusts, the first version of which was published last April.

South Essex Partnership is the highest ranked (fifth), while the Tavistock and Portman is the lowest (193). The vast majority of the shortlisted trusts, including Worcestershire Health and Care Trust (166), Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys FT (178) and Cheshire and Wirral Partnership FT (137), are in the lower half of the index, which is representative of the mental health sector in general.

Shortlist for next wave of digital exemplar funding

Trust RegioDigital maturity index ranking (April 2016)

South Essex Partnership University FT

Midlands and East


Berkshire Healthcare FT



Northumberland Tyne and Wear FT



Cornwall Partnership FT



South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare FT

Midlands and East


Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT

Midlands and East


Mersey Care Trust



Oxford Health FT



South London and Maudsley FT



Cheshire and Wirral Partnership FT



Worcestershire Health and Care Trust

Midlands and East


2Gether FT



Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys FT



Tavistock and Portman FT



The decision last year to give the first tranche of funding, and the largest sums, to acute trusts frustrated community and mental health providers, and raised concern that less digitally developed hospital trusts were being neglected.

NHS England director for commissioning and information Matthew Swindells in response said no part of the NHS would be “left behind” and other senior NHS Digital figures have insisted the less digitally mature will not be neglected.

The global exemplars have been tasked with turning their trusts into world leading digital providers – something no NHS trust can currently claim to be, according to the Wachter review.

The review said: “It is worth noting that, while there are examples of trusts that have reasonably high levels of digital maturity, on an international stage, none would be considered digitally superb currently, in terms of their levels of IT use, innovation, integration, education and research.

“However, given the unique assets of the NHS, there is no reason that members of this group cannot become world class, and we favour a significant investment that might allow them to become exemplars.”

The funding is to invest in technology, infrastructure, staff training and to create a “new generation” of chief clinical information officers, to speed up advances in digital technology. Each trust will also be partnered with an international organisation of their choice to help learn from their digital expertise.