News in Brief

News in brief: digital health assessments in Birmingham, online staff appreciation hub in London, AI mental health support in Hertfordshire, and more

Let’s take a look at some of the health tech news that has taken our interest recently from across the NHS.

New system of digital health assessments in Birmingham

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has revealed that it is trialling a new system of digital health assessments, which asks patients on the waiting list for clinical services to complete a health survey to find out whether they still require an appointment.

The trust refers to the new assessment as part of its wider effort to manage waiting lists more effectively. It notes that patients who do not complete the survey will remain on the waiting list for treatment, and that they will be contacted as usual when an appointment becomes available.

Online staff appreciation hub launched at Barts Health

Barts Charity has awarded £850,000 to help bring an online staff appreciation hub to life at Barts Health NHS Trust. The hub’s launch is based on feedback from the trust’s staff, who said they wanted a peer-to-peer recognition platform which offers “visible recognition for ‘everyday acts of kindness'” and “more recognition from senior leaders and managers”.

The Barts Hearts digital platform will enable staff at the trust to write shout-outs to their colleagues, attaching virtual hearts in support. Once a staff member has collected five of these hearts, they will be able to choose a gift, providing “real-time recognition” and a way for Barts Health to celebrate the work of their staff and volunteers.

New AI assistant and digital library in Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust has launched virtual assistant Balm AI, designed to help people access information on a 24/7 basis. The trust is also working on a digital library for mental health resources which aims to provide users with access to clinician-reviewed and approved information along with support for self-help.

The trust shares that Balm AI has been used over 10,000 times to date, with more than one third of those contacts taking place ‘out of hours’. The trust also highlights that “the majority of queries are asking for self-help materials, followed by queries about depression and anxiety”, which is helping them to develop the AI assistant’s responses and the the resources available.

One in four repeat prescriptions made via NHS App, says NHS England

NHS England has revealed the latest statistics on the NHS App, reporting that “more than four in five GP practices (81.1 percent) in England are now giving patients access to their new health records online”, translating to 23.5 million people.

In terms of usage, NHSE reports that one in four repeat prescriptions, or around 2.7 million per month, are now being made through the NHS App.

Vin Diwakar, national director for transformation at NHS England, comments: “More than 4,500 practices across the country have given patients access to their future records and we strongly encourage the remaining practices to implement the change with support available to help the practices that are having challenges delivering this service to patients”.

New gene test for newborns in Sussex

The neonatal intensive care unit at the Royal Sussex Country Hospital is using an “innovative” genetic test designed to help identify newborn babies who are at risk from hearing loss if treated with a common antibiotic.

The test, involving a cheek swab, takes an average of 26 minutes to determine whether the baby can safely receive the common antibiotic or they carry a single gene which could cause permanent hearing loss. Previously, the genetic testing process would take “at least a few days”, meaning that teams could not test for this gene prior to administering antibiotics.

Dr Cassie Lawn, consultant neonatologist and clinical lead, commented that the team is “proud to be an early adopter of this pioneering technology and protect babies from potential side-effects of essential medications.”