More than £400 million is to be allocated to sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) to bolster provider digitisation, Digital Health News can reveal. 

A prospectus for the £412.5 million Health System Led Investment (HSLI) programme was issued on 10 August to all STP leaders, along with a letter from NHS England’s national director of operations and information, Matthew Swindells.

Digital Health News has seen a copy of this letter and the associated prospectus.

They reveal that the half billion of funding promised to improve technology in hospitals – first mentioned by health secretary Matt Hancock last month – will not be subject to a bidding process.

Instead, a set amount will be allocated to each sustainability and transformation partnership (STP).

STPs will be required to develop local plans detailing on which digital projects the cash will be spent in each of the three years of the programme.

But while the plans must be developed by STPs, Digital Health News understands the funding will flow to specific provider organisations.

The prospectus states STPs should avoid a ‘fair share’ approach to allocating funds to providers, adding that there could be “challenging conversations and difficult decisions” ahead.

Captitated funding

There are 44 sustainability and transformation partnerships – some of which have now involved into integrated care systems (ICSs) – and Digital Health News understand the funding allocation is on a capitated basis, meaning it reflects the number of citizens in each STP or ICS area.

The allocated money will be dished out in phases, with 25% given in 2018/19, another 25% given in 2019/20 and then the final 50% handed over in 2020/21.

At a national level, £104m is available in 2018/19, £92.4m in 2019/20 and £261.1m in 2020/21.

Projects will have to address one of six national priorities outlined in the prospectus:

  • Deploying electronic patient record (EPR) solutions at scale across systems
  • Extending system capacity management to improve hospital flow
  • Improving system-wide staff rostering to reduce agency use and increase flexible working
  • Improving the completeness of information available in non-acute settings with real time, coded data collection in community and mental health
  • Improving ambulance and non-acute access to clinical information and support
  • Sharing health and social care information

Potentially challenging timeframes

The documents reveal the money for each year “cannot be rolled over”, and that STPs have between 1 September and 5 October to submit their final investment proposals.

The documents offer assurances that the processing of these proposals will take no longer than four weeks. However, it is unclear how long it would then take for providers to get hold of the funds.

This means that there could potentially be a very short period of time in which organisations would be required to spend the cash for 2018/19.

Match funding

While STPs will be required to match fund the national investment, a Frequently Asked Questions document, also seen by Digital Health News, states that “there are no constraints in terms of type or timescale” for this.

It continues: “Local investment can be capital or revenue, and this can be in the same year as the national funding or a subsequent year.”

The document also states this local investment can be “cash or as an investment in kind – for example, releasing staff for training”.

Another question included in the document addresses whether the presence of a global digital exemplar (GDE) within an STP area impacted the funds allocated to it.

In response, NHS England said “such an approach was under consideration” but was ultimately not taken forward.

However, the prospectus reveals funding will not be awarded to projects attached to the GDE programme. There are currently 16 acute, three ambulance and seven mental health global digital exemplars.