Mental health “global digital exemplars” will receive half the funding of their acute counterparts, the government confirmed Monday.

In a series of announcements on mental health digital investments the government officially confirmed that six-mental health trust will be selected to become “global digital exemplars for mental health” in the second round on NHS England’s flagship digital programme.

Digital Health News first reported in December that 11 mental health trusts were being invited to apply to become exemplars.

However, the government has now confirmed will each receive £5 million, to be matched in each case with local funding.  This compares to the £10 million offered to 12 acute global digital exemplars, again to be matched by £10 million of local funding, announced in September last year.

During a speech at the annual Charity Commission lecture in London on Monday, prime minister Theresa May announced a package of mental health policies designed to create a “parity of esteem” with other health issues.

“We will make sure that mental illness gets the attention it deserves, in funding, research and technology investment.”

The polices with the biggest headline price target was £67.7 million for digital mental health services, £60 million of which would be spent on six mental health exemplar trusts.

However, in a subsequent written statement to the Commons, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said half the exemplar funding would actually come out trust’s existing budgets, effectively reducing the central funding commitment to £30 million.

“We will introduce a major £60m investment, £30m from Government and £30m from Trusts, of digitally assisted mental health services in six mental health trusts, badged Global Digital Exemplars for Mental Health.”

The six mental health trusts will be the second round of global digital exemplars, following 12 acute exemplars, which Hunt described at the time as an NHS “Ivy League”.

The exemplar programme prioritises funding for already digitally advanced trust to both invest further in digital technology and provide a blueprint for other, less advanced trusts, to digitally transform later.

It is based on recommendations of Bob Wachter’s review of NHS IT modernisation, released in September last year, that divided NHS trusts into three groups based on their digital maturity and recommended the most advanced be funded first. 

The first round of acute exemplars, and the Wachter review, received some criticism for being too hospital focused and leaving those trusts that were less digitally advanced to fall further behind.

 

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