Insights from the NHS Digital Boards Programme

Image: Nicolas Leclercq

In 2020 we partnered with NHS Providers to launch the Digital Boards Programme. The programme delivers digital development sessions designed by our experts to NHS Trust boards across the UK.

Funded by Health Education England, sessions aim to grow confidence in leading digital among NHS board members and use our expertise at Public Digital to help guide the digital journey of NHS Trusts.

Over the last two years, the Digital Boards Programme has delivered over 100 events including over 80 board development sessions, as well as a range of digital leadership resources. Our work has reached well over 2,000 leaders across 199 NHS trusts.

In Spring 2022, Health Education England commissioned an evaluation of the Programme by the independent consultancy, MIH Solutions, with results showing the value that Public Digital’s work has brought to participating trusts since 2020.

The board development sessions were shown to be creating a tangible improvement in capability and confidence, with 100% of 2022’s participants stating that they would recommend the sessions to other organisations.

The Chief Executive of an Acute Trust commented that: “As a team we are left feeling inspired and motivated to progress… I highly recommend the Programme to Boards who are focusing on digital and want to become digitally 'savvy’”.

Results from the independent MIH review

The programme's workshops, webinars and leadership resources were also praised for being well structured, carefully tailored and offering targeted development support. Respondents consistently pointed to the efficacy of the Programme’s resources in supporting “digital planning, transformation and strategy development.”

Our experience of successfully delivering this programme, as well as the feedback from the MIH review, have given us a deeper insight into how we can support organisations in their journey towards digital growth.

Here are our five key takeaways from the evaluation:

When it comes to digital change, colleagues work best as a team

The feedback on our Digital Boards Programme revealed that impact scores were lower in digital coaching activities in which individuals typically participated alone, rather than the whole of the board participating as a team.

This shows the importance, when embedding digital learning within organisations, of doing so in group sessions.

Interactivity is key in digital coaching

Much of our positive feedback was based around the way our sessions were run, with board members responding positively to the session’s interactive elements.

While our board sessions were delivered both virtually and in-person, the in-person sessions scored highest for participation and interactivity.

Feedback showed the importance of embedding digital learning in group sessions. Image: Jason Goodman

Organisations should look sideways and work openly

Not only are colleagues made stronger by working as a team, but also by working with those outside their organisation and by sharing their work openly. The boards praised the Programme for its role in convening numerous NHS Trusts, enabling information sharing and allowing Trusts to benchmark themselves against others like them.

Feedback also commented on the benefits of having an organisation’s digital infrastructure and attitudes tested by an external party of experts.

Commitment to digital growth means being in it for the long haul

Our sessions helped boards to understand where they are digitally and what their next steps should be, but feedback showed a desire for continuity in their approach to digital progress.

One session alone is insufficient to create real change, and participants were aware of the need for an ongoing, iterative process in order to see results.

Real results are measured by structural change

When asked to suggest criteria to measure the efficacy of the Programme, several respondents pointed to the inclusion of digital in all elements of Board activities, and as a central pillar of strategic thinking.

For many Trusts, this criteria was achieved: Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust said that the Programme was crucial in allowing them to elevate digital to the same status as workforce and finance at the board. And while only one sub-committee on the board of Derbyshire Community Health Services was discussing digital prior to the Programme, it is now on the agenda of all four sub-committees.


We are grateful for the feedback provided by MIH Solutions, and look forward to implementing these insights in our continuing work with NHS Providers to deliver digital transformation for NHS Trusts.

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