NHS England to Spend £100 Million on Digital ‘Fast Followers’

NHS England has announced plans to spend £100 million on 20 so-called ‘fast followers’, effectively creating a second wave of digitally advanced NHS organisations.

Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event in London, NHS England chief information officer Will Smart indicated that 20 organisations within the healthcare system would be selected for this privilege over the next few months.

Fast followers will be provided with £5 million of central funding over the next three years in order to advance digital provisions within them.

In order to achieve this, trusts will partner with 16 global digital exemplars; the first wave of trusts funded to become what the authorities described as a “digital health Ivy League”.

“We need to take the secret sauce from how the GDE [exemplars] digitalisation is working and transfer that to other organisations, to the fast followers,” Smart commented. “Our absolute imperative for this is that we end up with blueprints or maps that, as we move out of this phase, if you are Coventry and you need to replace your EPR [electronic patient record] you can look around and say which trust do we want to operate like?”

Smart asserted that this new blueprint could make the digital transformation quicker, with a problem being that trusts often have few guidelines when deploying clinical IT systems.

“As opposed to what sometimes feels like every time you implement a new EPR you start a new journey…hospitals are different but there are not as different as we currently treating them,” Smart commented.

The new fast followers initiative is indicative of the intention to fully adopt Robert Wachter’s digital transformation plan.

Wachter had recommended splitting trusts within the NHS into three separate groups, while funding the most digitally mature of these groups; effectively making them exemplars.

The second group will then follow the lead of this initial tranche, with this additional sector being referred to as fast followers.

And the third section of trusts, representing those that are the least digitally advanced, will be funded to complete the transformation process last.

When the fast followers are announced later this year, NHS England will have committed up to £290 million to the Wachter plan.

This is indicative of the seriousness with which the NHS is taking the digital transformation.

It is not yet been clear whether the £5 million will be delivered centrally, or if this will be drawn from local funding.

Suppliers involved in the digital revolution in the NHS will include System C, CSC, IMS Maxims, Cerner, Epic, Meditech, Allscripts and Emis.

 

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