Editorial

Special NHS IT funding may be under threat, say reports

Health Service Journal investigation shows that £100m supposedly set aside for digital exemplar Trusts last September has still not been released – fuelling fears the money may be used to fight other NHS fires than tech

Posted 7 March 2017 by

None of the £100m NHS England identified six months ago has been given to the Trusts flagged as needing the money to become ‘digital exemplars’.

As a result, says highly-respected health sector news site HSJ (Health Service Journal), concerns are building in the health service that the fund “could be raided by Ministers” looking for ways to help the current NHS Winter Crisis.

The site says it’s been told by the Department of Health that the funding would be released “once the business case has been through the final approvals process” this financial year – or in “early 2017-18”.

The problem: senior NHS sources said that concerns the funding could be cut, “a fate suffered by four previous major NHS technology funds in recent years”, as HSJ points out.

Four flagship digital funds since NHS England was set up have been cut – what had originally been a £240m integrated digital care technology fund was cut to just £46m in 2015, while the £260m “safer hospitals, safer wards” fund shrank to £196m in the same year, while a £100m nursing fund launched by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012 was also raided, for example.

Speaking confidentially to HSJ, it claims, a number of senior sources with close knowledge of the exemplar programme confirmed the trusts had been expecting their allocations already, “but they had still not been given any indication of when, or if, they would get the money or any reason for the hold up”.

Some 12 acute exemplar trusts were named as the first wave of Trusts it wants to help lead the rest of the NHS in terms of achieving digital best practice, and some mental health trusts are also lined up to get funding, too.

Each of the acute Trusts is earmarked for £10m of financial support.

HSJ quotes the DoH as telling it that, “We remain committed to the first tranche of 12 or more global digital exemplars, which are a key component in making sure our NHS is fit for the future and delivering modern, personalised care to patients.”