NHSX outlines new digital guidelines for NHS trusts

The What Good Looks Like (WGLL) framework sets out NHSX’s flagship programme to create a clear vision for good digital practice across health and care that supports Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and organisations to level up – the ‘North Star’ for NHS Leaders embarking on digital transformation regardless of where they are on their tech journey.

The last 12 months has seen the rapid uptake and adoption of technologies across the health and care system as ways of working changed in response to the pandemic. The WGLL framework is important, as it sets out for the first time, a common vision for good digital practice.

The strategy for tech in health has covered three themes: digitise services, connect them to support integration and, through this, enable service transformation. And it is across these themes that seven success measures have been developed in the WGLL framework for ICSs and organisations.

WGLL in summary

The framework document describes how arrangements across a whole ICS, including all its constituent organisations, can support success. The WGLL is included in the ICS design framework and the NHS operational planning and contracting guidance, reflecting the expectation that the standards in the framework will be used to accelerate digital and data transformation.

The seven success measures

Outlined below are the success measures and for each measure, the framework explains ‘what good looks like’ for an ICS and an organisation but the commitments are applicable to all care settings:

  • Well led: Boards are equipped to lead digital transformation and collaboration. They own and drive the digital transformation journey.
  • Ensure smart foundation: Digital, data and infrastructure operating environments are reliable, modern, secure, sustainable and resilient.
  • Safe practice: Organisations maintain standards for safe care and routinely review digital and data systems to ensure they are safe, robust, secure, sustainable and resilient.
  • Support people: The workforce are digitally literate and are able to work optimally with data and technology.
  • Empower citizens: Citizens are at the centre of service design and can access and contribute to their healthcare information, taking an active role in their health and wellbeing.
  • Improve care: Health and care practitioners use digital and data to improve health and wellbeing, transform care pathways and deliver innovative and sustainable care models.
  • Healthy populations: organisations encourage development and adoption of new ICS-led, population-based, digitally-driven models of care.

NHSX’s support

Going forward, NHSX will provide resources to support staff with their digital journey. This will include an assessment framework for organisations to measure their level of digital maturity. It will help identify gaps and prioritise areas for local improvement. Assessments will be repeatable so progress can be tracked year-on-year.

At a local level staff will have access to an online knowledge base which will include blueprints, standards, templates, real-life examples and best practice.

In terms of the wider context, NHSX has already switched the focus of technology funding to supporting organisations to digitise more quickly. Through NHSX’s Digital Aspirant programme nearly 60 trusts are now receiving funding and support for their digital transformation journey.

Changes to the payment system

NHSX has also published the Who Pays for What proposals which describes the barriers to investment in digital technology and how it proposes to fix them in 2021 to 2022 and beyond.

The plan for 2021 to 2022 is to consolidate national funding for transformational tech projects into a single fund for which ICSs can bid for funding through a single portal. Guidance will be provided to bidders on what to include in their business cases.

But in future years, starting in 2022, NHSX proposes to start moving away from central funding of frontline tech, with ICSs expected to fund the delivery of their tech plans from their own budgets, the total funding envelop available to ICSs and their constituent organisations. They will be given control of more resources with which to do so.

Commenting on NHSX’s publications, Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said:

“These two documents will give frontline leaders the essential guidance they need to plan their digital transformation. They set out what they should be driving towards, and how they will need to pay for it.”

“They have been produced following extensive consultations with the frontline, and will continue to change as we get more feedback. They are designed to be helpful, empowering and clear.”

Written by Charlotte Lewis and Sophie Burton-Jones

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