Recognising digital readiness in the NHS

Great work from HSJ in publishing the next round of digital leaders among NHS Trusts recently. Despite the caveats associated with the data (it’s based on self-assessment and the data is well over a year old) it keeps the focus on those Trusts that prioritise technology at the heart of what they do.

The league table, which is an update on digital maturity assessments for 233 Trusts across the country, gives an inkling of progress (or lack of it) over the past three or so years, including how impactful this has been.

Firstly, it’s great to see that the average digital maturity score could have risen by as much as 16% and that the majority of trusts (over 80%) rated themselves ready for digital. Less good were the 20 or so trusts that believed their maturity had declined since 2017. 

Well done to Cambridge University NHS Foundation Trust which tops the list, followed closely by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, previous league table leader. At Ryalto we’ve seen first-hand how digitally engaged the staff of Salford are by the number of shifts being booked directly through the app. We know that digital engagement starts at the top but is evidenced and only successful if it sees uptake throughout the organisation. 

In this era of NHS doom and gloom, the headline indicators are positive: Trusts are starting to improve their digital competence, and the gap between the leaders and laggards is closing. Digital health, while seeking to improve patient care, can also reduce the pressure on our under-resourced healthcare system – from GP appointment to A&E waiting rooms – and leadership needs to move with this. 

The NHS boasts some brilliant tech leaders among its CIO community, however, a true digital health transformation demands a standalone head of digital and tech. This is someone who understands how to navigate this fast-evolving world and can test, innovate and look at the opportunity to take investment into the companies themselves – and reports into or sits on the board. This will truly drive the difference between digital competence and digital excellence.

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