News in Brief

News in Brief: mental health chatbot in Bradford, roll-out of virtual wards in Derbyshire, online booking system for blood tests in Bolton, and more

It’s time for our latest news in brief round-up – here we share some of the stories in health tech which have caught our eye lately.

Mental health chatbot launched in Bradford

Limbic, an AI-powered chatbot designed to “make it easier for people seeking help to access the right services” in mental health, has been launched in Bradford.

The chatbot will gather information and make an assessment as to whether a person’s symptoms are “mild”, or “complex”, before providing access to mental health support. By automating these early interactions, it is hoped that Limbic will help in allowing more people to access the support they need in a more timely manner.

The service is open to anyone over the age of 16 who is registered with a GP in Bradford, Wharfedale, Airedale or Craven, and patients can access it online, without the need for referral.

Royal Bolton Hospital launches online booking system for blood tests

Royal Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has announced the launch of its online booking system for blood tests, which has already seen a reduction in waiting times for blood testing and results.

The service is available to patients who have been advised to book a blood test by their GP, and a survey has shown that 100 percent of patients pre-booking their appointments in this way were seen at the hospital’s phlebotomy department within five minutes.

The hospital has shared that their data indicates that availability of the online system has resulted in an increase in pre-booked appointments, and a decrease in the number of walk-ins, which they say enhances their capacity and planning.

Extension on £2.2 million contract for digital CBT service at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust has announced a six-month extension to its £2.2 million contract with Ieso Digital Health, for a digital cognitive behavioural therapy intervention service, in a recent contract change notification.

Published earlier this month, the contract award notice states that it is for an extension of the original contract, which ended on 31 October 2023, and “has a zero value due to underspend of the original contract”.

The purpose of the extension, according to the notice, is to allow the trust to continue providing the service, “but to utilise the underspend within this six month period”.

Draft guidance from NICE recommends hybrid closed loop system tech for diabetes patients

Draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) makes a recommendation for hybrid closed loop system technology – a continuous glucose monitor sensor attached to the body which transmits data to a body-worn insulin pump – to support people whose diabetes is not controlled with their current device.

As the result of an agreement between NICE and NHS England, people who have already had an insulin pump, children and young people and women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy will be the first to be offered the hybrid closed loop system, as part of a five-year plan to roll out the technology. In addition, the tech is to be issued to adults with an average HbA1c reading of 7.5 or above.

Roll-out of virtual wards underway in Derbyshire

Derbyshire ICB has announced the launch of its virtual wards programme across Derby and Derbyshire, with the aim of helping to reduce pressures this winter.

In total, nine virtual wards will be opening, including at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust. These wards will care for patients across six specialties, including cardiology, respiratory, frailty and end of life.

A diagnostic virtual ward, which enables the monitoring and testing of patients over longer periods of time, has also been introduced.

Patients will be assessed for their suitability to be monitored on a virtual ward by clinicians, before being given a “tailor-made box of equipment” including a pre-configured smartphone or tablet, as well as medical devices to monitor vital signs such as heart rate and respiratory rate. Data from these  will be monitored by healthcare professionals from five clinical hubs, and face-to-face visits will be provided where necessary.