Prospective applicants

Non-urgent advice: Important

We want to encourage individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds to apply for the Digital Health Leadership Programme.

Eligibility criteria

To have been considered for the Digital Health Leadership Programme, individuals need to have met the following criteria.

1a. Be directly employed by an NHS organisation as a member of the NHS workforce in England.


1b. Be employed by a non-profit organisation with a long-term* commission in place to provide NHS services in England.

*Commissioned to provide NHS services for a minimum of eighteen months from September 2022 i.e., commissions ending March 2024 at the earliest. Examples of commissioned services provided could include (and are not limited to): Community health; Hospices; Social care.

2. Have demonstrable experience (typically 3 years minimum) of working within a role that is required to drive and implement practical digital transformational change within an organisation and/ or wider health and care system. Your executive sponsor will be required to approve the details outlined within your application. 

3. The programme is currently focused on those working in health and social care in England.

4. Applications from individuals with clinical and/ or non-clinical backgrounds are welcomed.

5. We know that job titles and responsibilities are incredibly varied across the system, and we would not exclude individuals based on this. However, we also want to ensure we can identify the most suitable candidates for the programme who through their participation will add greatest value to the health and care system.

The Digital Health Leadership Programme is targeted at our digital change leaders. As an example, from previous cohorts we have commonly received applications from individuals in the following roles. Applications are not limited to the roles listed, it is merely to give you examples and equally applies to similar or equivalent roles where terminology may differ. 

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO).
  • Chief Clinical Information Officer (CCIO).
  • Chief Nursing Information Officer (CNIO).
  • Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO).
  • Direct deputies of the above roles.
  • Other digital change leaders across the NHS in England.

6. Applicants cannot be already enrolled on another higher education programme that is due to be completed past September 2022.  

What else are we looking for?

  • You will need to identify a suitable Executive Sponsor to support your application and throughout your time on the programme.
  • You will be able to attend all experiential learning and live teaching – which may be in-person or virtual. If you would like to discuss any special requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us. This will not affect your application score.
  • You will need to work in an environment where you will be empowered and supported to apply new skills, learning, and behaviours to projects within your organisation or system.
  • You will be able to demonstrate commitment to the professionalism of our workforce and to embed learning within organisations and systems.

How can I identify a suitable Executive Sponsor?

An Executive Sponsor doesn’t require a specific title or role; however, the advice is generally the more senior the better so they can support candidates throughout their time on the programme.

It is also common for candidates to change Executive Sponsor either before or during the programme for a variety of reasons.

We would recommend that candidates identify a senior member of staff from their current organisation to act as an Executive Sponsor (providing they agree).

Should candidates who receive an offer for Cohort 5 need to change their Executive Sponsor, they will be provided with support to identify a suitable alternative.

How much will it cost?

Places on the Digital Health Leadership Programme are funded through the Health Education England Digital Readiness Programme. Funding also covers overnight stays for multi-day leadership forums. Individuals (via their organisation’s policy) will however need to pay for their travel costs and other expenses (e.g., meals while travelling), alongside additional accommodation - if needed - either side of a leadership forum.

What if I don’t have a degree?

We do not want degrees to be a barrier to applying for this programme, therefore having a previous degree is not a pre-requisite. Once successful, colleagues from Imperial College London will guide you through the academic enrolment process and as part of this you will be asked to provide previous academic records or evidence of equivalent professional experience. This will be a well-supported process and gives you the opportunity to confirm you are comfortable with the academic requirements of the programme. Should you be at all concerned about this step, please get in touch with us.

What level of experience is required? The eligibility criteria outline applicants typically having 3 years minimum experience, is this required?

Our eligibility criteria outline applicants would typically have 3 years minimum experience working in digital; however, this is not prescriptive. The programme has seen individuals participate from a wide variety of roles and experience from across the health and care system.

Our advice to candidates who are thinking of applying is to focus their applications on describing their experience, examples, and journey to date of working in digital, what they can bring to the programme themselves, and how the programme can benefit them individually, their organisation and the wider system. Further information on how applications are assessed can be found in the assessment criteria matrix.

How is the programme assessed?

A variety of assessments methods are used throughout the duration of the programme and there are no examinations involved. Assessment methods include (and not limited to) submitting reflective logs, academic essays, and completing group activities.

I don’t have a technical background, is the programme right for me?

You do not need to be from a technical background or have existing technical skills to apply or participate in the programme. The programme encourages individuals from a diverse range of backgrounds, including individuals with either existing or no technical skills. There are opportunities during the programme to develop technical digital skills, however the programme is primarily a digital leadership programme.

Applying from other UK nations

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have confirmed they will each be funding 5 places on the programme for the upcoming cohort (starting September 2022). Applications for these nations are open from 25 April – 29 May 2022 so interested applicants are advised to familiarise themselves with all the resources on these pages regarding the programme and contact [email protected] for further information on how to apply.

Support for candidates with disabilities or health conditions

The Digital Health Leadership Programme welcomes applications from candidates with disabilities and/or health conditions.

Candidates who require additional support during the application process are advised to contact [email protected] to discuss any additional requirements.

Candidates who are successful in applying to the Digital Health Leadership Programme will have access to Imperial College London’s Disability Advisory Service, who are available to support students who have an impairment or disability, specific learning difficulties and other short and long-term conditions.

What alternative opportunities are available if my application is unsuccessful?

If you are unsuccesful in your application to the Digital Health Leadership Programme, you may wish to consider exploring some of the following:

Academic Opportunities

Name: The Digital Leadership Forum
University: Henley Business School- University of Reading
Details: The Digital Leadership Forum at Henley

Name: MSc Digital Leadership (online)
University: Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University
Details: MSc Digital Leadership - Heriot-Watt University

Name: Executive Diploma in Digital Leadership
University: Warwick University Business School
Details: The Warwick Executive Diploma in Digital Leadership

Name: CMI Level 7 - Digital Leadership Programme
University: Chartered Management Institute
​​​​​​​Details: CMI Level 7 - Digital Leadership Programme

Relevant Professional Bodies

Further learning opportunities

Please note that not all opportunities listed below are directly funded or commissioned by Health Education England or the NHS Digital Academy.

Name: Certified Healthcare CIO (CHCIO) certification
Target audience: Chief Information Officers  

Name: Digital Pioneer Fellowship  
​​​​​​​Target audience: NHS healthcare professionals (only in London and Southeast England)

Name: Florence Nightingale Digital Scholars (HEE commissioned)  
​​​​​​​Target audience: Nurses and midwives registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)  

Name: Government Digital Services (GDS) Academy
​​​​​​​Target audience: Public sector workers interested in designing digital services

Name: Minerva Now Leadership programme
​​​​​​​Target audience: Women in digital healthcare

Name: NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme
​​​​​​​Target audience: NHS staff with an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation

Name: The Shuri Fellowship
​​​​​​​Target audience: Women of colour in digital

Name: Topol Digital Fellowship (HEE commissioned)
​​​​​​​Target audience: NHS clinical staff

Name: 35 under 35 Bursary Scheme
​​​​​​​Target audience: Digital leaders, under 35 years old

Name: Yale & HEE Digital Futures Programme (HEE Commissioned)
​​​​​​​Target audience: Senior teams across the system from ICS/STP footprints to work together 

Related information