• Majority of hospitals will no longer choose their own IT vendor and systems
  • They will instead partner with leading hospitals and roll out their ‘blueprints’
  • Next Steps plan also confirms four more global digital exemplars

NHS England has outlined fresh details of a major shake-up of how trusts will procure IT systems, under which hospitals will partner with “exemplars” and replicate their “blueprints” rather than procuring systems themselves.

The Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View document published today said hospitals will no longer choose their own vendor when deploying a new IT system. Instead, they will choose a leading digital trust to partner with and roll out “the same system” with some small changes to adjust for local variations.

The move follows a direction of travel set out by NHS England and the Department of Health to develop an elite group of digital exemplars to spearhead system-wide development, following Professor Robert Wachter’s NHS IT review.

The delivery plan said: “Our intention is that, in the future, hospitals won’t merely choose an IT vendor, they will choose a hospital that they want to partner with and implement the same system, keeping the IT 80 per cent the same and making only the 20 per cent of changes that are absolutely necessary to meet local needs.”

It added: “[The global digital exemplars’] task is not only to become great, but to work with other acute trusts to develop a blueprint that can be deployed to other hospitals, reducing the time and cost for further adoption.”

It said that to “ensure the blueprints really are suitable for other hospitals”, the examplars would be partnered with a group of “fast followers who will… begin deploying the blueprints elsewhere in parallel”.

The examplars are currently identifying their “fast follower” sites, and these will be confirmed over the coming quarter.

There are now 16 global exemplar trusts after the Next Steps plan confirmed four more trusts have been added to the original list of 12 announced last year.

The new exemplars are:

  • Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust;
  • Newcastle upon Type Hospitals FT;
  • Alder Hey Children’s FT; and
  • Imperial College Healthcare Trust in partnership with Chelsea and Westminster FT.

The exemplar trusts are largely developing mega-suite US systems, including Cerner and Allscripts. Cambridge has implemented the Epic system, while Taunton and Somerset FT is implementing the IMS Maxims’ open source system.

The plan also set out further details on proposals to increase the number of people calling NHS 111 that speak to a doctor.

From the summer, NHS England will develop and test specialist clinical triage modules for paediatric, mental health, and frail and elderly care. By December an online triage service will go live, which will be enable people to enter their symptoms and either receive tailored advice or a call back from a clinician.

The plan confirmed timelines for other digital policies including:

  • Continued rollout of free Wi-Fi to all GP surgeries “over the next year” as long as the Treasury approves funding.
  • GPs will be able to “electronically seek advice and guidance” from hospital specialists by the summer to help reduce and standardise the number of patients attending hospital outpatient appointments.
  • The upgraded NHS Choices website, rebranded as NHS.uk, will be online by September.
  • An NHS-approved apps library to launch this spring.
  • Sustainability and transformation partnerships must enable access to patient records from 111, A&E and urgent treatment centres by December 2018.

The plan also said the six innovations proposed to be included in the new “innovation and technology tariff” will now go ahead. The six will be the first to go through an accelerated access programme to speed up implementation of new innovative technologies.