The Innovation and Technology Tariff: an opportunity missed?

Have we truly capitalised on one of the most promising opportunities to have hit the NHS this year? 

Yinka MakindeBy Yinka Makinde, DigitalHealth.London Programme Director

Last week confirmed my fears that we might not fully capitalise on one of the most promising opportunities to have hit the NHS this year. The Innovation and Technology Tariff. Such a step forward in recognising the importance of technology in health, and the need for vehicles to make commissioning of such technologies more accessible.

It feels as though the four months that have passed since the announcement in June by Simon Stevens, may not have been adequate time to map provider needs to what the tariff should offer in its inaugural year. For example, using the needs articulated within the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – currently being published – to help guide what technologies should be considered for the tariff. Given the pressures of chronic conditions on the nation, in terms of impact on NHS expenditure, patient outcomes and quality of life, you’ll forgive me for being surprised that only one of the six technologies selected will address this escalating landscape: myCOPD.

COPD is one of the chronic conditions needing new approaches to drive self -management, with over one million people currently diagnosed but an estimated two million currently undiagnosed. However, with over four million people in the UK now suffering from diabetes as reported by Diabetes UK in January, I can’t help but think that we may have missed an opportunity here. With the National Digital Diabetes Prevention Programme about to kick off, and the work being conducted by the National Information Board to test out the app assessment process in areas which include Diabetes Prevention, surely the tariff ought to have accommodated at least one of the emerging and promising digital services helping patients to manage their condition better.

There are a growing number of credible digital solutions out there addressing challenges experienced in pre-diabetes. These include some of our very own DigitalHealth.London Accelerator companies: Oviva, OurPath and LiveSmart. This in addition to digital services for diabetic patients self-caring post diagnosis, such as MumoActive. It’s also worth noting that the founders of myCOPD also offer an app for Diabetes management – myDiabetes.

NHS England has flagged its commitment to expanding the number of innovations covered by the tariff in future years, and this is incredibly encouraging. It will be interesting to see how this initiative develops to ensure it is tackling the most relevant healthcare issues affecting the nation’s population.