News, Primary Care News, Secondary Care

In focus: NHSX delivery plan for digital transformation timelines

NHSX has released its ‘Delivery Plan’ for digital transformation within health and care, outlining how the organisation aims to digitise services, as well as connect the NHS and drive transformation.

The plan, it states, is intended to describe what’s being commissioned, and ‘what is being delivered when’, to enable frontline leaders to ‘plan with confidence’ and ‘an understanding of the change being undertaken centrally’.

The scope includes the change programmes funded by NHSX and those that ‘make up its Technology Transformation Portfolio’, with delivery commitments mainly focused up until the end of March 2022, while the other mentioned ‘dates and deliverables beyond March 2022 will be subject to change’.

The publication shares numerous aims and timelines by when it expects healthcare providers to have achieved a range of digital goals. It highlights the transformation in care delivery which occurred during the pandemic, and states: ‘The opportunity now is for the health and care sector to build on this, and use the potential of digital to help the NHS address both its long term challenges and the immediate task of recovering from the pandemic.’

This will involve, ‘in practice’: better outcomes and experience for people, including a more personalised experience and new ways of accessing care; a better experience for staff – with information available for use by staff and citizens, reducing the time spent chasing referrals or test results, plus staff being able to work more flexibly; and more effective population health management to help ICSs understand the needs of their populations, and reshape their services to meet them.

Its theme around digitising will include supporting local health and care systems to ‘raise their digital maturity’, and ensuring that they have a ‘core level of infrastructure, digitisation and skills’.

Another focus will be on connecting – which will involve supporting services to ‘share information with one another safely for both direct care and for population health’.

While, the transformation strategy revolves around using the ‘platform of a digitised, connected health and care system’ to ‘enable services to be delivered more effectively and productively, with citizens at the centre’.


Key stats in the piece include that currently, only 21 per cent of secondary care providers are digitally mature and 10 per cent continue to rely heavily on paper.

In terms of frontline digitisation, to help address this, NHSX will: develop a pipeline of investment to support organisations throughout the investment lifecycle; prioritise strategic multi-year investments over tactical in-year priorities; promote a steady flow of digitisation projects to prevent bottlenecks; make multi-year funding allocations as early as possible to avoid ‘last-minute scrambles’.

Its commitment milestones in this section include – but are not limited to:

‘By March 2025, 95 per cent of NHS secondary care organisations will have achieved foundational digital capabilities or be a Digital Aspirant / Global Digital Exemplar / Fast Follower’.

It’s hoped these levels will be at 40 per cent by March 2022 and at 65 per cent by March 2023, before rising to 85 per cent by March 2024 and 95 per cent by March 2025.

Other topics and plans covered in the text include touching upon the new hospital programme, What Good Looks Like (WGLL), ‘who pays for what’, cyber security, adult social care digital transformation, and future wireless strategy.

Regarding Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), upcoming commitment milestones include:

  • By January 2022, to have a a digital people strategy for the workforce ‘which recommends the utilisation of existing, nationally provided tools that enable cross-organisation working, reduces the burden on frontline staff and allows staff to work more efficiently and flexibly’.
  • Also by January 2022, for target architecture to be developed which will ‘enable providers to develop and refine the capabilities required to deliver services which will help to reduce inequalities, enhance efficiency and productivity and value for money’.
  • By February 2022, through collaboration with NHSEI, ICSs will ‘use Population Health Management analytics to make data driven decisions’ to support ‘COVID recovery and future system planning which will reduce health inequalities’.
  • By March 2022, ICSs are to be given a ‘place support offer’ to help them implement the What Good Looks Like guidance and produce a three-year digital transformation programme.

Milestones around ‘GP IT Futures’, meanwhile, are ‘subject to change’ but feature a new market entrant foundation solution being onboarded, the simplification of the primary care buying environment, and delivery of GP IT futures systems and services ‘with transition to Live Services for ongoing management’, all  by March 2022. The last milestone in this section is for a new market entrant foundation solution deployment to be started, ‘signalling the first live deployment of a new foundation solution to compete with the incumbent market in more than 20 years’, by April 2022.


In its overview of how it will connect healthcare, NHSX outlines how it will help NHS services to link up better, including: developing data assets that can be safely used for direct care, population health management, research and innovation; linking and combining data to save unnecessary referrals, alleviate workforce pressures, reduce medication errors, eradicate paper, intervene early, and prove the effectiveness of new standards of care; establish a federated ecosystem of trusted research environments; and put in place platforms, architecture and standards – such as data standards and APIs, and core platforms that support local services.

From the many mooted milestones, the electronic Referral Service (e-RS) will have Microservices developed to form new architecture and functionality that will ‘enable the vision of an any-to-any sector triage, referral and booking ecosystem for health and care’, by March 2024.

While a provisional aim is for a patient’s record to be able to be transferred from one GP practice to another as part of a new patient registration, by September 2022. A national adoption of interoperable medicine standards to underpin the transfer of medicines information for hospital admission and discharge is expected to be underway by March 2024.

For digital nursing, there is to be ‘established recognised formalised roles and responsibilities that enable the delivery of digital nursing leadership to all nurses working in England’, by June 2023. And, in terms of digital clinical safety, a national, digital safety assurance model is to be agreed in the DCS strategy, by March 2023.

When it comes to general practice data planning and research, however, the programme is currently under ‘strategic review’ and confirmed commitments will not be available until the third-quarter of the calendar year.


NHSX also shares plans for its transformational programmes, with a number of notable aims for digital in urgent and emergency care. These include making a service available to ambulance and community staff – at the point of providing urgent/emergency care – to ‘identify referral pathways’, and enable them to ‘refer in a single transaction on any device’, by March 2023.

Other significant transformation milestones involve an extension of messaging and notification functionality in the NHS App, to ‘incorporate primary care communication needs and national use cases’ by March 2022, with a consistent multi-channel experience of core services for the app and the NHS website to follow by December 2022. By March 2024, content and services on the platforms are also expected to be tailored to peoples’ individual needs and choices.

Regional scale plans for remote monitoring and digital pathways include that, by March 2022, more than 300,000 people should be supported by remote monitoring at home.

Find out more about the NHSX Delivery Plan, and the many themes, topics and areas it covers, via the dedicated web page.