Twelve hospital trusts promised extra support to become global digital exemplars are still waiting on millions in central funds they were expecting last year.

A Digital Health News review of trust documents has revealed at least four exemplar trusts were anticipating  millions being made available last year to fund their digital programme. 

However, NHS England confirmed this week that none of the £100 million allocated to fund the 12 hospital exemplars nearly five months ago, had been distributed.

One hospital exemplar also suggested a split has emerged between the 12 elite trusts, with six in a “fast track” stream to become paperless faster.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the first 12 hospital global digital exemplars in September last year, describing them as “Ivy League” that would drive digitalisation across the NHS by example.

Each trust was offered up to £10 million in central funding that were to be matched locally, money they were to use to become paperless by 2020 and provide a blueprint for other, less digitally advanced, trusts to follow.

Earlier this month, a further round of six mental health global digital exemplars were announced, although they will only receive £5 million each.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust expected to receive its first £3.5 million round of global digital exemplar funding in November last year, according to its board papers. A trust spokesperson confirmed this week that money had not been forthcoming but “we are expecting to receive £10 million imminently”.

In its November board papers, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust said it was expecting to reach memorandum of understanding with NHS England in December last year, with the first £2.5 million of exemplar money to be released that same month. 

Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust was also expecting its first tranche of exemplar funding in December after reaching an agreement with NHS England in November, according to the trust’s board papers.

And Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s board papers said £2.5 million would be made available in December following an MOU with NHS England..

Wirral’s new IT and information director, Paul Charnley, told Digital Health News central exemplar funds have not been made available yet but he had been told to expect the money “soon”.

“It’s not critical to us that it hasn’t arrived yet, but obviously the longer it goes within the financial year, the shorter time we’ll have to do anything with it.”

Wirral’s board papers suggest that the twelve exemplars are split into two categories based on their progress, with Wirral one of six trust on a “fast track programme”.

“The trust was not only one of only 12 Trusts to be selected but now one of only 6 that were part of the fast track programme.”

Digital Health News understands that trusts are at different stages of their funding agreements, and these are still subject to change. 

Charnley said this referred to “some of the sites who have been given two years in their agreements in order to complete their programme, and others have been given three years”.

At Wirral, the funding of just under £10 million over two years will allow for over 90 deliverables in around 20 workstreams to be completed including integrating vital signs and medical equipment into teh trust's Cerner electronic patient record, he said.

Rachel Dunscombe, chief information officer at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, told Digital Health News she was not aware of the “fast track” label but her trust expected to reach the digital exemplar status in two, not three, years.

Salford has a “big programme but it’s realistic and achievable”, with the project aiming to take the trust to the “very blunt measure” of HIMSS Level 7, Dunscombe said.

While the central purse strings have not yet been released, most hospital exemplars are still pushing on with their plans.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has already advertised for 25 new digital roles to implement its ‘Go Digital’ exemplar plan, from electronic patient record developers to cyber security analysts.

For West Suffolk, their digital plans will already exceed the £10 million of central funding available. The trust’s original exemplar bid predicted its digital programme will cost £25.2 million, £12.5 million of which would need to be funded centrally.

However, the digital improvements were expected to generate an overall net value of £7.5 million, the trust estimated.

The 12 global digital exemplars are:


* Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Trust
* Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
* City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust
* Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust

Midlands and East

* West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
* University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
* Luton & Dunstable University Hospital NHS Trust


* Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust


* Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
* Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
* University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
* University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust