Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been named as one of four new global digital exemplar trusts.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have also been named as a joint exemplar in the latter’s January board papers.

It comes as NHS England chief information officer, Will Smart, confirmed four acute trusts were now being funded as global digital exemplars, with a further six mental health exemplars to be announced in the next few weeks. This takes the total number of acute exemplars to 16.

Speaking at Westminster Forum event in London, Smart also confirmed all digital exemplars would be evaluated against digital maturity measures, using the example of US-based HIMSS 7 standard.

NHS England have yet to confirm the identity of the other two new exemplar trusts.

However, overall it means the commissioning body has now committed £160 million, £10 million for each trust, to fund the acute exemplar programme.

The announcement marks a remarkable turnaround for Cambridge. Less than two years ago, Monitor placed the trust into special measures, partly as a result of the shambolic and expensive deployment of a new American electronic patient record system, called Epic.

In Cambridge’s February ‘Integrated Report’ the trust confirmed it “was formally named as one of the NHS Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) trusts”.

In Chelsea and Westminster’s board paper it says that, in partnership with Imperial, the “trust has been fully incorporated into the Global Centre for Digital Excellence”, another name for digital exemplars.

In September last year, NHS England announced the first 12  acute digital exemplars trusts, with each to receive about £10 million each from a £100 million pot that they were expected to match locally.

Cambridge was anticipated to be chosen as one of the four new exemplars in November last year. However, at the time the trust was in still special measures.

Last month the Care Quality Commission recommended that the trust should be removed from special measures following its “good” rating. The report added that concerns with the Epic have been addressed since the authority’s last visit.

At the time health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, sent a personal video message of congratulations to the trust.



Cambridge was the first, and so far only, NHS trust to deploy the Epic, in October 2014, as part of its £200 million eHospital programme.

However, a week after go-live the trust was forced to declare a “major incident” and divert ambulances for five hours after the EPR became unstable.

In September 2015, the CQC rated the trust as “inadequate” and, just a few week later, Monitor placed the trust into special measures, blaming the eHospital programme caused “significant cost increases”.

The other trusts anticipated to be chosen were Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Alder Hey referenced the exemplar scheme in its January board papers saying its “digital global exemplar focus agreed in principle”.

All five trusts were on the 26-strong shortlist of global exemplars, released in August last year.

In September last year, Robert Wachter released his review into the digital future of NHS IT that said funding should be released in waves, with the more digitally advanced trusts benefiting first.

However, the recommendation were not universally popular, with concerns raised about the fate of less digitally advanced trusts.

Last month, a Digital Health News review found that the original 12 exemplars are still waiting for the promised millions of central funding from NHS England.

In January, the government announced six mental health trusts will be selected to become exemplars in the second round of the programme. However, these trusts will only receive £5 million from the government, in contrast to the acute exemplar’s £10 million.