The first ratings awarded to every integrated care system (ICS) for the ‘digital maturity’ of its NHS providers have shown that ICSs in the west and south west of England are some of the least digitally mature on average.

The final results of NHS England’s latest digital maturity assessment, first revealed by HSJ and since obtained by Digital Health News, demonstrated that neighbouring ICSs with large rural areas were the lowest performing in terms of digital maturity as a whole.

It is unclear how the ICS Digital Maturity scores will be used and whether any future investments will be targeted to the lowest-scoring ICSs or the highest-scoring ones.  Recent policy on provider digitisation has focused on boot-strapping lower digital maturity acute trusts a reversal of the Global Digital Exemplar programme that favoured the most advanced trusts.

Northamptonshire ICS was the worst performer overall in the country, with a total digital maturity score of 2.2 out of 5, while neighbouring systems Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent ICS, Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS, Herefordshire and Worcestershire ICS, and Gloucestershire ICS all scored low at 2.3 or 2.4.

The ICS digital maturity scores were calculated as an average of their providers’ scores, making it very difficult to compare like for like as different ICSs have a different mix of providers within them.

Scores were given across seven metrics set out in the “What Good Looks Like” framework to determine a digital maturity overall average. Those are: Well Led, Smart Foundations, Safe Practice, Support People, Empower Citizens, Improve Care, and Health Populations.

Suffolk and North Essex, Frimley, and West Yorkshire were the only three ICSs to score three or above out of five, with the overall rating for the NHS at 2.4.

The highest scoring ICSs on the metric of ‘smart foundations’, used to measure the maturity of systems including electronic patient records and patient administration systems, were Suffolk and North Essex, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, and Frimley, while Northamptonshire scored the lowest.

NHS organisations’ digital maturity was last assessed in 2016, prior to the formation of ICSs in 2019, and due to the changes in criteria for assessment, progress is difficult to measure.

Consultancy firm McKinsey was awarded a £6m contract to deliver digital maturity assessments in 2022.  There have been grumblings at some trusts that the digital maturity work has been used as a license to try and upsell further consulting services

Some organisations were accused of gaming the previous assessment system in order to receive more funding from the centre by deliberately self-assessing their digital capabilities as poor.

NHS England has said that this year’s assessments have been peer-reviewed in order to increase validity and prevent trusts from finding a way around the system.

NHS England says results from these assessments have been shared with providers and ICBs to help with decision-making and the allocation of resources.