NHSX has released a new Unified Tech Fund and a ‘prospectus’ on the topic, which will act as a guide to help simplify funding for NHS digital transformation projects.
The fund itself is expected to bring together “multiple existing pots of national tech funding into a single application”, while the accompanying prospectus – part of the Who Pays for What strategy – is intended to clarify the costs and responsibilities around the implementation of digital solutions and pathways. It will provide NHS leaders and organisations with a template on how to bid for funds, as well as informing about the application criteria and process.
The prospectus is intended as a response to the feedback that “funding for technology is too complicated”, in addition to challenges facing healthcare providers, which can include funds being released too late in the year, organisations not knowing how much funding is available, and who or what the financial support is available for.
NSHX describes the Unified Tech Fund, which collates several national technology funds to make £680 million available to NHS organisations through the 2021-2022 financial year, as a “first step” in the wider plan to tackle these issues, by setting out clearly the amount of funding and having a “single approach to bidding for it”.
Overall funding aims, as described by NHSX in the prospectus, include: levelling up the digital maturity and cyber security capabilities of all trusts; ensuring a basic shared care record is in place within all ICSs; scaling up what works and is proven, to improve productivity; improving interoperability; supporting the digitisation of pharmacy, optometry, dentistry, ambulance and community services; increasing system capacity and resilience of diagnostic services, and reducing manual process; improving outcomes for women and their children; improving the safety and experience of clinical care for staff and patients.
In the applications guidance sector, NHSX also explains that submissions will be reviewed on a monthly basis, while applications to the Unified Tech Fund will close after 22 March 2022 – although some individual funds will close earlier and these dates are set out within each fund’s page.
While each fund will have a “unique focus system”, NHSX wants all applicants to “clearly demonstrate that they have worked across their ICS Organisations to ensure that investment proposals align to their local system needs”, as well as that all requests are reviewed and approved by regional and ICS teams, and that bids focus on “levelling up and innovation” within the ICS.
Funding that’s not included in the Unified Tech Fund will be found in a dedicated ‘out of scope’ section, while the prospectus will explain the amount of money available, scope, and criteria for the following areas:
- Frontline digitisation
- Shared care records
- Cyber security infrastructure
- Digital productivity
- Pharmacy, optometry, dentistry, ambulance, community (PODAC)
- Digital maternity
- Digital child health.
Applications for the Unified Tech Fund are now open, as of 31 August 2021, with money to be released at different points in the year for each fund, while applicants will be kept informed throughout the process and will also be able to digitally track the progress of their submissions.
The prospectus will be updated as new funding becomes available and feedback from healthcare professionals is welcomed by NHSX throughout the process. To find out more, prospective applicants can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
NHSX has also recently released its ‘What Good Looks Like‘ framework and guidance for digital transformation within the NHS, so bids will be expected to align with this and also be consistent with the Digital Transformation Plan for Health and Care.
You can read more about the recent publication of the What Good Looks Like programme and the Who Pays for What strategy in our recent round-up on HTN.