Some NHS IT directors have called the deadlines for digital roadmaps “unrealistic” but NHS England remains confident that “most” plans will be lodged by the end of the month.
An NHS Providers survey of 25 NHS IT directors found that while most agreed with the strategy and goals of the roadmaps, less than half thought it was achievable under the current timeline.
“Respondents felt more progress had been made in agreeing goals and strategies than in setting an achievable plan and timeline, with a number commenting that timelines were ‘unrealistic’,” the NHS Providers report said.
Trusts have until the end of June to submit both a local digital roadmap and sustainability and transformation plan to NHS England.
As at 9 June, the commissioning body confirmed no finalised roadmaps had been submitted.
The roadmaps are meant to be a plan, developed by the NHS and care organisations within a local roadmap “footprint”, for how they will become paper-free by 2020.
Having an approved roadmap will be obligatory for any organisations hoping to get extra NHS England funding to pay for “technology enabled transformation”.
The roadmaps sit under the broader STPs, also due by the end of the June, which are meant to set out a local plan for how health and care services will become “sustainable” within the next five years, as part of the Five Year Forward View.
Earlier this month, an NHS England spokesman confirmed that no finalised STPs have been submitted, but said most roadmaps and STP should be in “close” to the deadline.
Exactly when the final plans will be published, and form a basis on which to seek funding, has remained unclear.
NHS England will review the roadmaps in July, but there is no timeline for when they will be approved.
STPs will be approved and published in “waves” starting in autumn, which could stretch into 2017, potentially leaving the trusts little time to get contracts in place for the 2017-18 financial year.
The NHS Providers survey, which was conducted in April, showed that while most thought the digital roadmaps were “helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in achieving the paperless 2020 target, they felt progress had been poor.
One common comment was that “nothing has happened yet”, and many were concerned that timetable was “unrealistic amidst existing pressures and commitments” and “resource constraints”.
In a blog accompanying the survey, NHS Providers senior health analyst Isabel Lobo said the “incredibly tight” roadmap deadlines were putting the credibility of the plans at risk.
“This is a punishing timetable for informatics leads who must simultaneously deliver their day to day business, lead their own organisation’s transformation agenda, and engage in complex negotiations across their local digital footprint “
During a webinar host by the King’s Fund on 9 June, Mike Part, NHS England’s head of digital for London, said roadmaps in the capital were progressing well.
One of the big focuses of many roadmaps had been improving interoperability at scale, some of which could be done “cheaply”, some of which would need investment, he said.
“We have all got 30 information exchanges in London…the problem is they don’t talk to each other and they don’t talk to the patient.”
Steve Abbott, information management and technology programme director at the North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group, told the webinar he was confident Surrey would have a roadmap submitted by the end of June.
The focus would be around shifting control of health services information to the patient, which would include expanding shared care records, patient facing apps and personal care budgets.
“We will provide people with the right care at the right time to make the right health care choices.”
While both men remained confident the NHS would be paperless by 2020, others could take some convincing.
An informal audience poll taking during the webinar found only one in five agreed that the NHS would banish paper by 2020.
Read NHS Providers senior health analyst Isabel Lobo’s take on the digital roadmaps deadline here.