Sunderland Royal Hospital has become the first within the NHS to achieve all requirements of the national Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme.

GDE accreditation is a hallmark for NHS organisations who are digital technologies to improve patient care and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (of which Sunderland Royal is part of) is the first organisation in the NHS to achieve all requirements of the programme.

The GDE progamme was launched in 2016 and saw a number of acute, mental health and ambulance NHS trusts being handed a share of £160million of national funding to spend on digital transformation projects. At the time South Tyneside and Sunderland had not merged and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was named as a GDE with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust be named as its fast follower. In April 2019, the two trusts merged to form South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

The route to GDE accreditation started out five years ago at Sunderland Royal Hospital, with an ambition to become paper-free at the point of care by 2021. Now it has met all the requirements, South Tyneside District Hospital has used Sunderland’s GDE blueprint in order to successfully roll out the trust’s Meditech Electronic Patient Record (EPR).

More than £25million has been invested in the trust to advance its digital systems and drive improvements in patient care. The EPR delivers live, up-to-date information and negates the need for paper records. Staff can make updates electronically and record vital signs courtesy of scanning technology and digital patient wristbands.

Dr Kevin Joisce, consultant in emergency medicine and chief clinical information officer at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “For many years, our Board has championed the pivotal role of technology in the safe and effective delivery of modern day NHS care.

“Technology is embedded in everything we do, in all of our clinical processes and all of our nursing workflows – it is a fundamental part of how we deliver patient care. Our GDE programme has been pivotal in helping us realise our paper-free ambitions to an extent where we have successfully eliminated our reliance on paper-based systems, with significant benefits to patient care across all trust facilities.”

Director of information management and technology at the trust, Andy Hart, received the official GDE accreditation from NHSX at a virtual ceremony on 28 July 2021.

NHSX director of frontline digitisation Dermot Ryan added: “South Tyneside and Sunderland is an excellent example of the difference the use of digital technologies can make to patients and staff. I’m delighted to be able to present their accreditation today.

“At NHSX we want to support all parts of the NHS to digitally transform and our new Digital Aspirant programme is focusing on those organisations who need extra help, with over 60 local bodies benefitting so far.”

Sunderland Royal Hospital’s role as a digital pioneer has also been boosted with it becoming the first trust in the North East to be awarded the HIMSS EMRAM level 7 status at the end of last year.