Building digital leadership in healthcare providers

The goal

NHS England wanted to strengthen and accelerate the process of digital transformation by building the digital skills and understanding of NHS board leaders.

Digital transformation of the provider sector is critical to delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan and the quadruple aim. NHS England’s ambition for this programme was to enable NHS trusts to lead well for the digital age, setting a culture of data-driven and user-centred healthcare, to be able to make changes quickly and safely, while overcoming constraints and sources of inertia that slow transformation.

Evidence from multiple industries shows that informed, curious, and empowering leadership is a non-negotiable success factor for digital transformation. Health Education England’s (HEE) research from 2017 showed that the most successful trusts encourage inspiring digital leadership at every level of the organisation.

To support the development of digital leadership in the NHS, public digital partnered with NHS Providers to deliver the Digital Boards programme - a leadership development offer aimed at all NHS trusts.

What we did

To build the digital capability of the NHS’s leadership community, we partnered with NHS Providers to deliver a comprehensive development offer reaching every provider trust in the country with: bespoke board workshops, peer learning events, deep dive seminars, and a range of written outputs including 7 detailed guides to different aspects of digital transformation.

Our partnership with NHS Providers enabled them to bring their unparalleled reach and understanding of the NHS leadership community, expertise in developing peer learning and whole board support, alongside our deep knowledge of digital transformation and leadership to trusts of all types and specialisms across the country.

We began with a discovery phase, to understand the key knowledge gaps and learning needs of our audience and to plan a suite of interventions to meet them. We tested our initial content and activities with trusts before rolling out at scale
Matt Harrington working with NHS provider trusts
Matt Harrington leading a session with NHS Boards.

We continued to iterate throughout the programme, pivoting to respond to trusts' evolving needs. We have continuously adapted our content to keep pace with the constantly changing environment that NHS trusts operate in. We addressed topics such as board assurance of digital, developing digital strategy, supporting technology portfolio management, understanding AI, and implementing and optimising electronic patient record systems.

As well as our high satisfaction scores and evidence of impact on learning, the programme delivered many tangible qualitative benefits to individual trusts. For example some reorganised their team structures, others changed their governance approach, while others ripped up and rewrote their digital strategies as a result of our support.

The success and impact of the Digital Boards programme has been amplified by a further award to deliver the complementary programme for Integrated Care Systems.

What we achieved

We increased the ability and confidence of trust boards across England to lead successful digital transformation.

  1. 1

    We reached over 3000 board leaders across 154 events, including 104 bespoke board development sessions.

  2. 2

    96% of board members participating in our development sessions would recommend this work to a fellow NHS board.

  3. 3

    89% of board members participating in our development sessions felt the sessions increased their confidence in assuring the delivery of digital programmes.

  4. 4

    The trusts we have worked with have committed to meaningful actions to improve digital leadership in their organisations.

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