Exclusive: NHS England has confirmed to Digital Health News that the 2024 Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA) survey will include primary care for the first time. 

The DMA is a survey, launched in 2023 to help NHS trusts and integrated care systems across England understand their level of digital maturity by identifying key strengths and gaps in the provision of digital services.

In 2023 the survey was sent to acute, ambulance, community and mental health settings, but an NHSE spokesperson told Digital Health News that this year’s DMA includes “a clearer capture of information” with “an expansion into primary care”.

“The DMA helps NHS organisations improve their digital services and has been expanded into general practice to provide a more complete picture of local services,” the spokesperson said.

They added that the DMA is one of “a wide range of factors and information sources” on which spending decisions are based on.

The survey was sent out to integrated care boards (ICBs) in April and final submissions are expected in June 2024, NHSE confirmed.

Commenting on the expansion of the DMA into primary care, chief information officer and programme director of Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust, Lee Rickles, told Digital Health News that it is “a good thing and necessary”.

“Having a completed picture of our digital capability using a common measure helps planning, investment and the spread of best practice across the NHS,” Rickles said.

Dr Paul Jones, chief digital information officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and chair of the Digital Health Networks CIO Advisory Panel, told Digital Health News that “getting a consistent view across trusts of maturity is a good thing”, but said that “there are way too many questions and the answers are likely to be too variable to really draw conclusions”.

He added that it would be good to see NHSE add social care to the DMA in future years to provide a “view of all partners digital maturity in a system”, but the complexity of social care means “it will take longer to gain a consistent DMA”.

A spokesperson at NHS West Yorkshire ICB told Digital Health News: “Achieving a consistent understanding of maturity in GP IT delivery is beneficial.

“With numerous variables and diverse delivery models, drawing concrete conclusions from surveys can be challenging, especially among general practices. Moreover, the scope extends beyond GP IT teams, encompassing secondary care and practice responsibilities.

“Developing maturity in digital primary care, as highlighted by previous evaluations, underscores the need for comprehensive support and resources across the sector’.

The publication date of the DMA results have not been announced.

The 2023 assessment included 50 questions, measuring maturity against the seven dimensions of the What Good Looks Like framework: well led, smart foundations, safe practice, support people, empower citizens, improve care, and healthy populations.

Results from the 2023 survey showed that only 10 to 30% of NHS trusts with an electronic patient record had key functionality and were making full use of their system.