INTEROPen turns to members for funding as NHS Digital pulls back


INTEROPen is switching to a membership model following NHS Digital’s decision to cease funding the group.

From 2020, INTEROPen, a supplier-led interoperability group tasked with promoting open data standards across healthcare, will begin asking vendors to pay an annual membership fee.

Membership fees will be banded according to the size of the supplier.

Care provider organisations – such as NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups and sustainability and transformation partnerships – standards bodies, arms-length bodies and very small vendor organisations will be granted free membership.

Digital Health News understands that the group has received a donation from a benefactor that will allow it to continue its work until the changes take effect.

In an email sent to members, INTEROPen suggested that switching to a membership model of funding would allow it to address limitations associated with being funded through a national organisation.

This includes potential conflicts of interest between vendors’ own priorities and centrally-mandated programmes of work.

An email sent to INTEROPen members read: “Although we are very grateful for this support in the first years of our network, it has limited, at times, our ability to fully represent the voices and priorities of all our community members, particularly vendors.

“We want to be at the centre of developing and implementing open interoperability standards for the benefit of patients and everyone involved in delivering health and care, and by being financially independent we can be more fearless in pursuit of doing what we believe is right in our drive to achieve our vision, mission and values.

“By providing greater support and a clear voice to the needs and concerns of our vendor members, we believe that we will be able to more quickly achieve the adoption of standards across the NHS and social care through vendors including these in their products.

“It will also allow vendors to be more responsive to priorities that are set more locally by, for example, by the LHCRE areas.”

When contacted for comment, an NHS Digital spokesperson said the withdrawal of funding was not linked to the ongoing Org2 restructure but an unrelated “prioritisation exercise”.

They added: “NHS Digital has supported INTEROPen since its inception two years ago, but like all public bodies, we keep our spend under continuous review to ensure best value for taxpayers.

“During a recent prioritisation exercise, it was decided that we could no longer continue to support INTEROPen with funding for specific projects or with other resources. We gave the INTEROPen team a good deal of notice about the change and extended their funding for an additional three months on top of this notice, to give them time to make new arrangements.

“NHS Digital remains a committed participant in the INTEROPen group and looks forward to continuing to contribute as a member. We are publicly committed to open data and to driving forward interoperability and this has also not changed.”

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