Interoperability and information governance are among the technological priorities for NHS ‘vanguard’ sites, according to a support package published by NHS England.

The package has been developed to provide help and advice to the 29 original vanguards, which were launched earlier this year to trial new models of care in the NHS and to support nursing homes.

Alongside the support package, NHS England announced the first batch of funding for the vanguards, with just under £20 million going to three organisations, with another £41 million to be allocated this month.

This money comes from the £200m transformation fund, which was set up last year to support the implementation of the ‘Five Year Forward View’.

This is the report published last year by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, which calls for investment in public health and new ways of working to help find £22 billion of efficiency savings by 2020-21.

When coupled with £8 billion of additional funding promised by the Conservatives during the election campaign, this is meant to close a potential gap of £30 billion between NHS funding and rising demand and costs.

However, the acute sector appears to be facing an immediate crisis, with Monitor writing to foundation trusts yesterday to challenge their financial plans, and to call for additional steps to tackle a deficit that could reach £2 billion this year.

Steps suggested by Monitor include a freeze on non-essential hiring, trusts diverting patients to other providers with excess capacity, and the suspension of fines for missing targets.

NHS England says its vanguard package has been put together following a series of site visits, and covers eight areas, one of which is harnessing technology.

It says vanguards will be supported to “rethink how care is delivered, given the potential of digital technology to deliver care in radically different ways” and to “help organisations to more easily share patient information.”

Its report highlights the Immedicare telemedicine project in the Airedale and Partners Vanguard as an example of how interoperability can support healthcare.

The project, set up in 2011, links 133 care homes in Airedale, Wharfedale, Craven, Bradford and East Lancashire to a telehealth hub based at Airedale Hospital.

It gives residents access to clinical consultation via secure encrypted video links 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a view to reducing A&E visits.

The report also argues that some areas, such as Hampshire and Mid-Nottinghamshire, have had success in creating models of information governance for sharing information.

It says these ‘pioneers’ will be used to create guidance on real-life clinical scenarios for other sites, while nationally agreed standard templates are in development.

Further support for the vanguards is in the pipeline in the form of dedicated technical and strategic support to develop ‘roadmaps to interoperability’, which are due to be published from November 2015, and linked digital strategies.

By December 2015, NHS England expects to begin publishing examples of digital successes to support other vanguards and the wider NHS.

Tracking the progress of the vanguard sites is an important area for the commissioning board, which identifies ‘evaluation and metrics’ as another enabling area for support.

The plan is to publish an initial suite of core metrics for each of the first three care models in the vanguard programme – integrated primary and acute care systems; multispecialty community providers; and enhanced health in care homes – by October 2015.

Examples include emergency admissions per person, bed days per person and quality of life for people with long- term conditions.

The first tranche of money to support the vanguard work comprises: £8.3 million for Northumberland Accountable Care Organisation; £6.5 million for Better Health and Care for Sunderland; and £4.9 million for South Somerset Symphony Programme.

A further £41m has been approved in principle for vanguard sites in Morecambe, Southern Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Salford and Wirral. This funding will be finalised in August.