Published on: 11 December 2020

Sunderland Royal Hospital has officially been crowned as one the most digitally advanced organisations in the whole NHS and the only hospital in the North of England to be awarded Level 7 status from the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS).  

Having begun it’s digitally journey almost 30 years ago by making its first tentative steps towards a fully integrated electronic patient record, Sunderland has now achieved the highest possible global digital quality standard and is pioneering the way for others in the NHS to follow. 

In February 2020, Sunderland Royal Hospital had already become the first hospital in the country to be accredited with Global Digital Exemplar status* and has now gone one step even further.  Following a two day virtual assessment held on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 December 2020, HIMSS assessors have awarded Sunderland Royal the highest attainable accreditation, Level 7, after observing clinical and operational teams in action from across the hospital.

The digital accolade means Sunderland Royal Hospital now joins an elite few organisations around the world to achieve the internationally recognised HIMSS Level 7 standard.  It follows major long-term investment in technology and is a credit to the Trust’s leadership team who, for many years, have recognised the pivotal role of technology in the effective and safe delivery of modern day NHS care.  

The Trust’s Meditech Electronic Patient Record (EPR) is used across Sunderland Royal Hospital, ensuring clinical teams have access to live, up-to-date patient information at the touch of a button from all departments. Whether a patient is visiting the Emergency Department, an inpatient ward, a diagnostic area, therapy or outpatient appointment, or indeed, needs to undergo an inpatient operation, the EPR provides up-to-date information for any NHS staff treating them. 

Regardless of the department or speciality within the hospital, this improves the ability to effectively and safely manage patient care. 

The advanced Meditech solution allows staff to update patient information in real time, prescribe medication, as well as integrate to monitors and record vital signs from the bedside using scanning technology and digital patient wristbands.  The system also integrates with the Great North Care Record (Health Information Exchange), meaning the information gathered in the Meditech solution is available to other healthcare settings across the North East and North Cumbria. 

Commenting on the achievement, Dr Kevin Joisce, Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Chief Clinical Information Officer at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “This is fantastic news for our patients and testament to the hard work and dedication of all clinical colleagues who have truly embraced our digital ambitions to make them a reality in Sunderland.  

“Using the most up-to-date and advanced digital systems is as part and parcel of our ethos and how we want to deliver patient care and to achieve Level 7 accreditation reflects the digital maturity of our Trust.  Technology is embedded in everything we do, in all clinical processes and our nursing workflows to an extent where we have successfully eliminated our reliance on historic paper-based systems at Sunderland Royal Hospital.  

“Our Board have long championed the use technology with a clear and ongoing commitment to improve patient safety and the overall quality of clinical care through the effective use and deployment of digital solutions.  This is an important milestone for the organisation and one that we will continue to build upon in the years ahead.”

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is one of the most digitally advanced organisations in the NHS.  In September 2016, Sunderland Royal Hospital became one of the first Trusts in the country, to be confirmed onto the national Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme, helping to share its digital expertise across the NHS.  

Since then, South Tyneside District Hospital is now also part of the GDE fast follower programme and is already a year ahead of schedule for ‘paper-free’ HIMSS accreditation after adopting the Meditech electronic patient record in October 2019.

Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Meditech system also enables a shared laboratory information management system across both South Tyneside District Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead allowing clinical teams to have live access to test results as soon as they are available.  

Andy Hart is Director of Information Management and Technology at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.  He said: “Embracing technology has long been at the heart of our strategic thinking and a tremendous amount of work has taken place by all of our clinical teams to reach this important milestone for Sunderland Royal Hospital and for the NHS as a whole.  

“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.  There is no doubt that our Meditech solution has greatly enhanced patient safety, outcomes and the quality of patient care, as well as improving organisational efficiency.

“Achieving our paper-free ambitions for Sunderland Royal has only been possible thanks to a long-standing commitment from the whole organisation, right from the Board to all clinical colleagues on the shop floor, and I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved.”

Regional Director at HIMSS John Rayner said: “I had the pleasure of validating Sunderland Royal Hospital against the EMRAM Stage 6 standards in January 2020. It is really pleasing to see how much progress they have made in such a short time, 11 months in fact. During the latest assessment, which was virtual, a team of 6 assessors found the hospital to be compliant with the EMRAM Stage 7 standards. In speaking with and observing the medical and nursing teams it was easy to see that digital processes and associated workflows have become absolutely embedded in the way that this hospital works. There is a clear commitment here to use technology to improve patient safety and the overall quality of clinical care.”

Ken Bremner MBE, Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, is a staunch supporter of digital innovation in the NHS and has long championed the use of technology to improve patient care.  

Commenting on the digital first achievement for Sunderland Royal, he said:  “Make no mistake this is a major milestone in our digital journey for the Trust and the result of many years’ hard work and commitment at all levels.  Our key priority now is making sure our South Tyneside District Hospital site can reach the same Level 7 HIMSS quality standard as soon as possible. 

“We have seen throughout 2020, and the NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic, just what an important role technology has to play and the great potential it has to improve how we deliver services in a new and modern way in the years ahead.  As a Trust we will now continue to build on this great achievement at Sunderland Royal Hospital and keep pushing the boundaries of innovation even further to extend digital solutions into how we interact and engage with patients on a daily basis.”