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NHS App to include mental health and MSK tools and new commercial pathway in development: Lord Markham at London Tech Week

Lord Markham delivered a keynote speech at London Tech Week 2023, to highlight how the government is supporting innovation, the introduction of mental health and MSK tools into the NHS App, and a new proposed commercial framework to “improve market access” and “consolidate the buying points”.

On the NHS App, Markham said: “The first mental health and musculoskeletal products will be available via the NHS App later this year, allowing 24/7 access to suit lifestyle factors without the need for a clinician referral.”

Markham added a priority to “accelerate the deployment and adoption of clinical grade technologies that are evidence-based” and spoke on the move to change the availability “from these technologies only being available in some areas of the country, and for those who have been referred into a clinical pathway”. He added a commitment to reduce commissioning barriers, as well as supporting innovations to scale.

The speech went on to highlight a priority to pilot new mental health technologies to transform models of care and to support “levelling up the use of digital tools within our existing NHS mental health talking therapies services”.

Markham highlighted funding and the development of new commercial plans, stating: “A key priority for technology funding is supporting health and care systems to ‘level up’ their digital maturity and ensure they have a core level of infrastructure, digitisation and skills by March 2025.

“We’re working to develop a clear policy framework and market pathway to support this,” he said, adding that NHS England is working with NICE, MHRA and other partners to “create a clear, efficient and user-centred pathway to scale digital health technologies in the NHS”. He added that “the pathway is being co-designed with views from industry and will be reflective of the dynamic market.”

On a proposed commercial plan, he stated: “The proposed commercial pathway will determine how products will be recommended across the NHS, which will provide clarity for innovators about how they evidence their products and how they will be reimbursed. The process will support the emerging digital health technology market, while providing value for money for the NHS. It will help to consolidate the buying points, streamline market access for industry and will also provide opportunity to leverage the buying power of the NHS.”

Here, Markham highlighted the introduction of audits to provide “critical information on the level of risk we’re holding in relation to digital health technologies and clinical systems”. This includes the progression to have a national picture of what tech is deployed and where across the NHS.

The speech also covered the New Hospital Programme, with Markham saying: “Digital design is at the heart of our approach to standardisation in the New Hospital Programme. Our aim is for this to bring even greater productivity gains than digital alone and there could be 20 percent productivity gains from that, which will encourage the Treasury to help fund even more new hospitals.”

During the speech, Lord Markham commented on his background, which saw him move into healthcare and set up a company that “significantly reduced the waiting time for PCR results from 72 hours down to just three or four hours”. He added: “It was at this point I also experienced first-hand the challenges of doing business with the NHS, so I sympathise wholeheartedly with anyone who’s struggled in that regard and am committed to removing barriers and ensuring our health service remains on the frontline of innovation.”