The next round of “exemplars” should be expanded to include non-acute trusts, the chairman of NHS Digital has said.

Noel Gordon, who both chairs NHS Digital and sits on the NHS England board, told Digital Health News: “I would like to see more diversity in the national exemplars".

This could include mental health, ambulances or even emerging integrated care organisations, he said.

While no decision had been made at NHS England, Gordon said he would be arguing at the board for a wider range of trusts to be included. “Overall, I would like to mix it up."

At the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester last month, health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed 12 acute trusts that would be funded for up to £10 million each to become “a global digital centre of excellence”.

He also announced that a further round of 20 national exemplar trusts would be selected in the future, with each receiving up to £5 million in central support.

The model of funding is aligned with US 'digital doctor' Bob Wachter’s review of NHS IT, which recommended splitting NHS trusts into three groups, and funding the most digitally advanced trusts, or group A, first and the least digitally advanced trusts, group C, last, with minimal support until they were further advanced.

Global exemplars would be in group A, while national exemplars would be in the middle group B, with more than half of all trusts in group C.

Hunt said he envisaged trusts moving between the groups depending on their digital maturity.

The approach has drawn a mixed response, with concerns that many trusts will fall further behind and specific criticism that the model focused too much on acute trusts.

Gordon said he supported the tiered approach, with global exemplars creating models for less advanced trusts to follow.

In the meantime, the less advanced trust would get a “small amount of money to build capacity” while exemplars built working models for digital transformation, he said.

“They [group C trusts] can leapfrog; they don’t have to experiment. They don’t have to take the pain.”

Central funding for global and national exemplars would be treated as seed money, to be matched locally and create “cascading effect” of digital transformation.

So far, £100 million has been set aside for global exemplars, but Gordon said he hoped more money would be made available for national exemplars.

Overall the government has set aside £4.2 billion for NHS IT over the next five years, with £1.8 billion of new money to meet the paperless 2020 goal.

Of this £1.8 billion, much of the money remains unallocated although early signs are that beyond the £100 million for global exemplars, no further allocations will be made in this financial year.

It is understood announcements about national exemplars will be made next month and Gordon said further clarity of further was expected in the next few months.

Read more: Digital Health News has interviewed three of the leaders of NHS Digital about its plans for healthcare IT. Read the interview with Noel Gordon, Andy Williams and Beverley Bryant in Features today.