At last – a national IT programme which is built on local collaboration between suppliers and the NHS, is open and accountable, and paves the way for full-scale transformation, writes Markus Bolton

We have waited a long time for a national IT initiative that could deliver results at a local level. The tech funds were good but they were tactical. The less said about some of the other programmes the better.

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However, this latest central initiative – the funding of Global Digital Exemplar Trusts and the creation of an IT ‘blueprint’ for others to pick up and work with – seems to me to be a fine idea with teeth. Providing the funding really is on the table, of course…

The reason I think this is because it is built on local collaboration between NHS trusts and IT suppliers, because suppliers bear a significant burden of risk, and because progress and outcomes will be available for all to see. And the prize is full-scale transformation.

For the NHS and trusts, the blueprint provides a well-documented IT roadmap for getting to 2020 and meeting the goals of The Five Year Forward View. Each blueprint is rooted in clinical and operational reality – developed by the IT supplier in partnership with a partner trust. Each of our own ‘fast follower’ organisations can take items from the blueprint according to their own requirements and priorities.

For us, this is the first time we have had a nationally targeted IT programme which aligns with our own development roadmap. We have many of the component parts of our blueprint already installed in lots of different places. This programme allows us to accelerate development, put them together in one place and offer a fully integrated solution.

‘It is a very challenging target. We will be investing a lot of our money, and are going to be publishing our results. In fact every Exemplar site will be showcasing its progress so Trusts can see what has been achieved. They can then decide which blueprint is best for them’

Our key to success will be keeping it simple. At the high level, this is what we are going to be doing:

  • Providing a mobile ‘workspace’ for clinicians to use – which effectively provides a one-stop IT support for clinicians to use in all routine aspects of their work with patients, covering clinical noting, prescribing, ordering, looking up records and decision support
  • Sharing records and allowing collaborative working across settings and care communities – so multidisciplinary teams made up of acute, primary, community and social care staff can work together to meet the needs of patients
  • Patient involvement and engagement – transforming the services provided into new models of care

It is a challenging target – we have just two years to get it done. We will be investing a lot of our money in this programme, and we are going to be publishing and sharing our results. In fact every exemplar site will be showcasing its progress so trusts can see what has been achieved. Trusts can then decide which blueprint is best for them.

Our vision

Our aim is that when you walk into University Hospitals Bristol, our Global Digital Exemplar partner, it is immediately obvious that you are seeing a transformational change in the use of computing.

Every clinician will have access to the information they need on desktops, tablets and smartphones. The impact on outcomes and patient engagement will be palpable.

We want what we deliver to be both useful and delightful to use. This is a big investment for us and a big investment for the NHS and we are really looking forward to making it all happen.