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First wave of technological innovation pilots for NHS announced

‘Test Bed’ projects to target elderly and those with long-term conditions and mental ill health

Caroline White

Friday, 22 January 2016

A major new drive to modernise how the NHS delivers care is set to initially target older patients and those with long-term conditions and mental health issues, as the first wave of NHS Innovation ‘Test Beds’ gets under way today.

NHS England chief Simon Stevens will launch a series of collaborations between the NHS and innovators at the World Economic Forum in Davos this morning, in a bid to harness technology to address some of the most complex issues facing patients and the health service.

Frontline health and care workers in seven areas will evaluate the use of novel combinations of interconnected devices, such as wearable monitors, data analysis and ways of working to help patients stay well and monitor their conditions at home.

Successful innovations will then be available for other parts of the country to adopt and adapt to the particular needs of their local populations.

The plans announced today include equipping patients with diabetes in the West of England with remote monitoring and coaching technology to allow them to better self-manage their condition; and using data analysis to identify older patients in Rochdale who are most at risk of critical health events, and then helping them to use telecare and remote devices in their homes so that their doctors can provide help as soon as they need it.

People in Birmingham at risk of serious mental illness will also be able to make use of technology and apps to manage their condition, linked to a hub which can despatch the right specialist staff at the right time to help if a crisis looks likely.

Addressing delegates to the Forum, Simon Stevens said: “Over the next decade major health gains won’t just come from a few ‘miracle cures’, but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications, and AI [artificial intelligence] computing.

“Our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service.”

A joint programme between NHS England, the Office for Life Science, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, NHS Test Beds will bring together local health bodies including CCGs, hospital trusts, primary and community care providers with a wide range of innovators in the UK and elsewhere.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: ”We are determined to ensure the NHS can remain a pioneer of new treatments and models of care so that UK patients will be amongst the first in the world to benefit from these hugely exciting medical advances, made possible by the life sciences industry in partnership with the NHS.”

Each Test Bed will use a different combination of innovations to address a locally-identified clinical challenge.

The first wave includes five health and care and two ‘Internet of Things’ Test Beds. The sites will be spread across different areas of England, including the West of England, Surrey, Sheffield and Birmingham.

The five NHS Test Beds chosen are: Care City Health and Care Test Bed, which will promote healthy ageing across a million-strong population in North East London; Long Term Conditions Early Intervention Programme in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale, which aims to help healthcare professionals better identify and support patients at risk of long-term conditions using the most advanced new predictive techniques; Lancashire and Cumbria Innovation Alliance (LCIA) Test Bed, which aims to support the frail elderly and people with long-term conditions to remain well outside of hospital and avoid unnecessary admissions; Perfect Patient Pathway Test Bed, which aims to create the ‘perfect patient pathway’ for patients in the Sheffield City Region with long-term conditions; and RAIDPlus Integrated Mental Health Urgent Care Test Bed in Birmingham and Solihull, which aims to offer more proactive support for people at risk of mental health crisis.

The two Internet of Things (IoT) Test Beds are: Diabetes Digital Coach, which brings together mobile health self-management tools (wearable sensors and supporting software) with the latest developments in connecting monitoring devices; and Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) which will help people with dementia to live in their own homes for longer.

Test Beds have been developing their proposals over the last nine months with support from the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

The successful projects were chosen for their ability to address local clinical challenges through innovation, at scale, and on the strength and commitment of their local leadership to be able to change established ways of working. They were also required to demonstrate their ability to evaluate and collect evidence of the improvements made for patients.

Successful Test Bed partners are likely to deliver wider financial benefits to the NHS and the UK economy as they are rolled out in other areas at home and abroad, says NHS England.

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