Digital healthcare

NHSX publishes new digital guidelines for NHS trusts

NHSX has published new digital guidelines to support local NHS leaders and organisations to transform services for patients.

The guidance calls for patients to be able to digitally access their care plans and test results, for trusts to explore new ways of delivering care such as remote monitoring and consultations, and to improve care using electronic prescribing systems.

The framework known as What Good Looks Like (WGLL), provides NHS managers with clear, easy-to-use instructions on what they should be doing to enhance their use of digital technology in their service, and how they should be paying for it.

This also includes detailing the common foundation that should be in place across the NHS, such as using a secure digital infrastructure, and ensuring that digital systems are designed to meet the needs of their staff and patients.

Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: "Over the past 18 months we have all appreciated the immense value of technology.

“This is particularly true for the NHS with digital technologies freeing up hospital beds and allowing clinicians to continue seeing patients remotely – and it will be invaluable in meeting other health challenges in the long-term.

"This new guidance from NHSX provides a clear direction to all NHS trusts on how to drive digital transformation forward and transform organisations, which will improve patient care and save lives."

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said: “These two documents will give frontline leaders the essential guidance they need to plan their digital transformation. They set out what they should be driving towards, and how they will need to pay for it.   

“They have been produced following extensive consultations with the frontline and will continue to change as we get more feedback. They are designed to be helpful, empowering, and clear."

NHSX have also said that the guidelines are an important step in continuing the task of digitising NHS services and building on the progress made in adopting digital tools during the pandemic.

Minister for Innovation, Lord James Bethell, said: “The pandemic has changed the way we all see digital technology – from connecting with our friends, family and colleagues to continuing to deliver care to the most vulnerable in the safest and most effective way.

“Using innovative technology to support people is not just limited to our response to Covid-19. It can transform the way we care for people with long-term conditions, detect cancer faster and save clinicians valuable time, ultimately improving the care the NHS provides and saving lives.

“We are harnessing the potential of technology and supporting the NHS and organisations to drive real change with patients and staff at its heart.”

Sonia Patel, NHSX Chief Information Officer, said: “Talking to leaders across the NHS, there is a renewed belief and confidence in the digital and data agenda and increasing awareness of the importance it holds in supporting a modern NHS. 

“I hope these resources are both empowering and enabling in terms of understanding the destination we commonly want to reach across the nation with digital transformation.”

NHSX has also published a proposal for where the cost of digital transformation should come from. It sets out a clear division of responsibility for technology funding and invites NHS organisations to help shape that plan.

NHSX is now engaging on Who Pays For What (WPFW) here:

NHSX is also bringing together multiple existing funding pots into one national application process, which  is expected to make it easier for local organisations to bid, and for central bodies to ensure funding is allocated fairly.

Responding to the publication of the WPFW guidance by NHSX, the Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “We broadly welcome the publication of the Who pays for what (WPFW) proposals by NHSX today. Trusts have long called for digital funding to be streamlined and simplified and so today’s guidance is positive step in the right direction. It is encouraging to see the proposals published alongside the NHSX WGLL framework, with both documents describing NHSX’s digital expectations for the sector.

 “As ever, we also need to be mindful of the amount of funding available for digital innovations and where this fits in a growing list of priorities for health spending. The success of this guidance, and the ability of trusts to progress on the digital agenda, will ultimately depend on the comprehensive spending review settlement later this year.”

The proposals in the future are believed to see a move away from national funding programmes, with funding for local technology spending allocated to ICSs instead.

NHSX has already shifted from focus on technology funding, to supporting organisations to digitise more quickly. Nearly 60 trusts are already benefiting from the NHSX Digital Aspirants programme, for example:


  • North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust has launched a digital portal for their Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service that brings together a wealth of information, advice and guidance for mental health issues impacting children and young people, as well as those involved in their lives such as parents/carers/guardians, teachers, and other professionals.
  • North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS FT with Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, initially focussed on upgrading their network, infrastructure and WiFi. The organisations are now focussed on integrating their electronic patient record systems so clinicians across both trusts can access the information they need.

Local bodies will be supported to reach the What Good Looks Like targets, with a range of resources including access to an online knowledge base, including blueprints, standards, templates, real-life examples, and best practice guides. 

The guidelines will be followed up with an assessment process to be outlined by NHSX later this year. This will help NHS services identify their gaps and prioritise areas for investment and improvement.

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