Patients missing out on benefits of digital health as new scheme launched to “turbo-charge” take up of new innovations

Digital mental health support, remote monitoring during pregnancy, and personalised autism support are among new products being offered to the NHS in new innovation scheme to speed up digital health.

Health innovation experts warned that more needs to be done to support people to take full advantage of digital health innovation, as “accelerator” schemes launch in five parts of England today, designed to rapidly increase the speed at which the NHS adopts and uses digital health products.

The announcement comes days after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed to “bring the NHS into the 21st century”, and shared his plan for the NHS to become the best in the world at using technology in healthcare. However, experts warn that although the NHS has made impressive progress in its digital offer in recent years, there is much more work to do to help patients see the NHS as a digital service and to drive change from the bottom up.

The latest available data on the use of digital services in GP practices shows that only one in 10 of us report booking an appointment online and 60% of us are unaware that online booking is an option, despite 99.3% of practices offering the service.

The accelerator schemes launching today, including the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, are much broader than GP services and will encourage the NHS to try more than 34 new products, including apps, chatbots and other virtual approaches, across a wide range of clinical areas. The schemes work with high potential innovators to transform care, connecting them to parts of the NHS that need them most. Many of the related products have been developed by clinicians who previously worked in the NHS and saw the potential for change first-hand.

Mike Hannay, Chair of England’s Academic Health Science Network, which runs the accelerator schemes with partners, said: “Even now in 2018, when we interact with the NHS, we rarely do it digitally. The innovations set to transform modern healthcare exist, many of them created by clinical staff who could clearly see a better way. We need to turbo-charge the use of digital products, because it’s patients who miss out on innovations that can change their lives and speed up access to care. These accelerators will get this kind of innovation into the hands of people faster, while saving the NHS money and supporting economic growth for bright start-ups.”

Sheinaz Stansfield, a GP Practice Manager who reversed her type 2 diabetes using a digital behaviour change app, Changing Health, said: “Before I tried a digital tool for diabetes myself, I was sceptical of how valuable they can actually be… six months on, it’s changed my life. Making these tools available on the NHS could be really beneficial, as people are becoming more intrinsically geared towards tech.”

It is the first time the scheme has operated beyond London, where a successful accelerator has been running for two years, saving more than £50 million for the NHS and enabling the public to benefit from technology including a smartphone app that slashes A&E waiting times, a digital lifestyle management platform that can reverse type 2 diabetes, and a “USB port for the body” that can host a bionic limb.

Examples of the 34 products that will be supported by the accelerators include:

  • Digital mental health support: Dr Julian is an innovative healthcare platform that increases accessibility to mental healthcare. It connect patients securely within days, seven days a week, to vetted mental healthcare professionals. Patients choose the time and type of appointment they want, including options for audio, video, and text, which they can access from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Personalised autism support via an app: Brain in Hand, an on demand system, gives people with autism, mental health condition or learning difficulty, access to detailed personalised support from their smartphone.
  • Remote monitoring during pregnancy: HaMpton involves the use of an innovative smartphone app for monitoring high blood pressure at home. The app alerts women if they need to attend the hospital, and it also links with a hospital computer system where the data can be monitored by clinicians in real time. HaMpton empowers women to be involved in their own care, reduces the number of hospital visits, and has achieved excellent patient and staff satisfaction.
  • An app for falls prevention: Safe Steps is an app that helps health and social care professionals deliver standardised and effective falls risk management. It reduces the risk of falls by assessing and tracking lifestyle and risk factors of care home residents, creating a personalised action plan for care homes to follow.

By speeding up access to the latest digital technologies, the accelerator model not only ensures that thousands of people benefit from the latest technologies to improve their health and that the NHS takes advantage of the best technology. It also ensures that high potential companies grow faster, supporting economic growth across different areas of England.

See more about how the NHS is exploring new digital innovations here.

————————————– ENDS ————————————–

 Notes to editors

  • For more information, contact Rose de Mendonca, Communications Manager. E:, T: 07881010213
  • The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is a programme of DigitalHealth.London, and a partnership between London’s three Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), MedCity and CW+. The additional schemes build on the London programme’s success, and are run by South West AHSN, East Midlands AHSN, Health Innovation Manchester, and Kent Surrey and Sussex AHSN.
  • There are 15 AHSNs across England, established by NHS England in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale – improving health and generating economic growth. Each AHSN works across a distinct geography serving a different population in each region.
  • The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is receiving up to £1.7 million of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit