• Up to £12.9bn technology investment needed to implement early long term plan proposals
  • Figure likely to fall as proposals are reined in
  • Biggest areas of spending include digitalising trusts, improving IT infrastructure, and data collection
  • Headline figure on par with the notorious National Programme for IT

Implementing the forthcoming long term plan for the NHS will require up to £13bn in IT spending over the next five years, according to official estimates, HSJ can reveal.

Officials working on the plan have produced an estimate of between £10.9bn and £12.9bn for the cost of supporting proposals across 15 long term plan “workstreams” ranging from creating personalised care to improving cancer survival, HSJ understands.

The figures form part of the work of the digital and technology workstream for the long term plan, which is being developed by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The sum would be on par with the National Programme for IT, the most expensive push to improve IT systems in NHS history and an infamously costly and troubled project. It is likely to reduce substantially, however, as ambitions for the plan are negotiated and reined in over coming weeks.

The estimate includes £2.8bn of already approved funding covering 2019-21, with an additional £10.1bn to £8.1bn requested through to 2023-24.

HSJ understands about £3.2bn of tech investment identified in the estimates is needed simply to keep current tech programmes running past 2020-21, rather than for any new investment to support long term plan submissions.

This will include continuing live services like the NHS spine and the cyber security centre, and existing commitments, such as fully digitalising secondary care.

Overall, digitalising all NHS providers is expected to be the biggest area of expense (£3bn), which is expected to take to 2023-24.

This is followed by improvements to IT infrastructure (£2.21b to £3.04bn) and data gathering and analytics (£1.39bn to £1.95bn) needed to support programmes submitted to long term plan.

It is estimated 60 per cent of the overall £10.9bn to £12.9bn tech investment would need to be revenue, with the rest capital, HSJ understands.

The digital and technology workstream is led by senior leaders in NHS England and NHS Digital with West Suffolk Hospitals Foundation Trust chief executive Steve Dunn.

The estimates were updated last week but are highly dependent on how much is needed to support projects proposed by the other workstreams, and which are eventually taken forward in the plan, which is due to be published in late November or early December.

The total IT funding ask is therefore likely to fall over coming weeks as other proposals are dropped.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, who has identified digital technology as his top priority, has previously said funding for the long term plan will be “contingent” on deploying the modern technology.

A spokeswoman for NHS Digital said: ”As everyone is well aware there is an ongoing process underway to develop proposals for the NHS long term plan, including a digital and technology workstream.

“We are working closely with our partners across the system to ensure that there is the right amount of investment in technology for the future to improve and enhance the experience and outcomes for patients.

”Any figures being discussed at this stage are ambitious and in outline and as with any planning process, there will be a stage of collaboration, consultation and refinement before final figures are agreed.”

An NHS England spokeswoman said: ”Unsurprisingly various organisations and sectors will lobby for their own agendas, but equally obviously as many across the NHS have pointed out, there is a need to be completely realistic about what can be afforded over what timelines.

“All those involved have a duty to ensure that their proposals are realistic, proportionate and provide value for taxpayers’ money.”

Source: HSJ