Published on: 28 July 2021

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT) has achieved another digital first for the North East as Sunderland Royal Hospital becomes the first in the NHS to complete all requirements of the national Global Digital Exemplar* (GDE) programme.

The GDE accreditation is a hallmark of excellence for NHS organisations who are using world-class digital technologies to improve patient care.  STSFT is the first organisation in the NHS to achieve all requirements of the programme.

Director of Information Management and Technology, Andy Hart, will receive the Trust’s official GDE accreditation from NHSX* at a virtual ceremony today as STSFT continues to cement its worldwide reputation as a centre of digital excellence.

Five years ago Sunderland Royal Hospital set out a bold ambition to become ‘paper-free at the point of care’ by 2021 after becoming one of just 16 Trusts across the country to be recognised as a GDE site.  Using Sunderland Royal Hospital’s ‘GDE blueprint’, South Tyneside District Hospital has now also successfully rolled out the Trust’s Meditech Electronic Patient Record (EPR) in record time and despite the pressure of a global pandemic.

Since 2016, STSFT has invested over £25 million to advance its digital systems and delivered many improvements in patient care.  At Sunderland Royal Hospital, all clinical teams now have access to live, up-to-date patient information at the touch of a button from all departments.

Whether a patient is in the Emergency Department, an inpatient ward, a diagnostic area, or attending a therapy or outpatient appointment, the EPR provides live, up-to-date information without the need to access paper records.  Staff can update records electronically in real-time, prescribe medication and record vital signs from the bedside using scanning technology and digital patient wristbands.   

Andy Hart is Director of Information Management and Technology at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.  He said: “Achieving our paper-free ambitions through the GDE programme has only been possible thanks to support from NHSX and NHS Digital, our partner MEDITECH, and a long-standing commitment from the whole organisation, right from the Board to all clinical colleagues on the shop floor.  I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved.

“Having joined up and highly effective IT systems in the NHS is by no means an easy feat but it is a fundamental enabler to delivering excellent patient care.  We will now continue to build on our GDE success to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation even further.  We look forward to sharing our learning with other NHS organisations who need support in rolling out digital solutions.”

The official GDE accreditation recognises the Trust’s digital achievements over many years and follows Sunderland Royal Hospital becoming the first Trust in the North East (and second across England) to be awarded the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) EMRAM Level 7 status in December 2020.  HIMSS Level 7 is a further international standard for digital adoption within a hospital setting and means STSFT is one of an elite few organisations around the world to achieve the highest possible global digital quality standards.

Commenting on the GDE accreditation, Dr Kevin Joisce, Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Chief Clinical Information Officer at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “For many years, our Board has championed the pivotal role of technology in the safe and effective delivery of modern day NHS care.

Technology is embedded in everything we do, in all of our clinical processes and all of our nursing workflows - it is a fundamental part of how we deliver patient care.  Our GDE programme has been pivotal in helping us realise our paper-free ambitions to an extent where we have successfully eliminated our reliance on paper-based systems, with significant benefits to patient care across all Trust facilities.

NHSX Director of Frontline Digitisation Dermot Ryan said: “South Tyneside and Sunderland is an excellent example of the difference the use of digital technologies can make to patients and staff. I’m delighted to be able to present their accreditation today.

“At NHSX we want to support all parts of the NHS to digitally transform and our new Digital Aspirant programme is focusing on those organisations who need extra help, with over 60 local bodies benefitting so far.”