• Six more mental health trusts proposed for digital funding
  • New online portal for trusts to access and copy digital “blueprints” in development
  • Questions remain around funding of provider digitalisation

Six mental health trusts are being lined up for the next wave of NHS England’s flagship effort to digitalise providers.

A NHS England presentation to industry in December, obtained by HSJ, shows the national commissioner is proposing seven new “fast follower” mental health trusts (see box), which will buddy with the first wave of “global digital exemplar” trusts, announced last year, to improve their IT systems.

The named trusts are still going through “due diligence”.

However, if successful, the organisations will receive up to £3m of central funding each through to 2020-21, which will be expected to be matched locally.

The six proposed fast follower mental health trusts

  • North West Boroughs Healthcare Trust (buddied with Mersey Care Foundation Trust)
  • Cumbria Partnership FT (buddied with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear FT)
  • Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust (buddied with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT)
  • Sheffield Health and Social Care FT (buddied with Worcestershire Health and Care Trust)
  • Sussex Partnership FT (buddied with Oxfordshire Healthcare FT)
  • Lancashire Care FT (buddied Berkshire Healthcare FT)

The list also included in East London FT buddying South London and Maudsley FT. However, the exemplar trust told HSJ and said it has not yet picked a digital fast follower.

This is the latest phase of NHS England’s GDE programme, which now involves 48 trusts, most of them acutes.

The programme is aimed at increasing digital maturity across all NHS trusts by funding already digitally advanced trusts to develop “blueprints” for less digitally advanced providers to follow.

Most of the proposed mental health fast follower trusts have scored poorly on NHS England’s digital maturity index; however, the index was last updated in 2016 and based on self assessments. None of the seven are among top 50 digital trusts, according to the index, and three are in the bottom 50.

The presentation also revealed that NHS England is setting up an online digital blueprint portal, where it would publish “how to” guides on using IT systems in the NHS, based on the experience of exemplar and fast follower trusts.

Blueprints will include broad advice on how to improve IT systems in a specific care setting, such as community services; how to use technology to support a specific care pathway, such as diabetes; and how to deploy a specific IT system, like the Epic electronic patient record.

The portal will also track the progress of trusts in the GDE programme against new, publicly available, milestones, the presentation said (see box).

GDE milestones include:

  • Strong digital leadership and information governance.
  • IT systems that use standard clinical terminology.
  • Having interoperable IT, allowing information to flow easier between different systems.
  • A completely digital electronic prescribing and medicine management system.
  • Wi-Fi for staff and the public.
  • Sound procedures for recovering from an IT disaster, such as cyberattack, and keeping services running.
  • Electronic transfer of care.
  • Business intelligence.
  • Mobile enabled IT systems.

The presentation also said exemplar trusts are expecting to hit these milestones much earlier than others.

For instance, the Royal Free London FT was expecting to meet NHS England’s digital capability standards by June 2018, while City Hospitals Sunderland FT was expecting to achieve them by April 2020.

To date, NHS England has secured £385m from the Treasury through to 2020-21 for the GDE programme – but the majority of this has yet to be paid to trusts.

In August 2017, NHS England director of operations and information Matthew Swindells told HSJ that further funding was expected to be approved by the end of 2017-18 but this has yet to be announced

NHS England was approached for comment.

This story was modified on 19 January, after South London and Maudsley FT raised accuracy concern about NHS England’s list of proposed fast follower trusts.