Councils encouraged to bid for health data cash

A government fund to encourage digital health data integration will be remodelled to encourage collaboration with local authorities, according to the NHS head of technology strategy.

In September, the government announced the £250 million extension of the Safer Hospital, Safer Wards Technology Fund, aimed at implementing electronic record keeping.

And yesterday, Paul Rice told the Socitm spring conference that the renamed fund would now focus on bids which included collaboration between health bodies and councils to promote integrated care.

He said: “In the first round, the focus was on acute care. The orientation of the fund going forward is about reflecting integrated care. This can only be effectively achieved if we have information to ensure it is a joined up solution.”

Rice said that he was still negotiating on the final value of the second round funding with Treasury, despite the commitment last year to a £250 million for 2014/15 and 2015/16 extension.

“It is still a negotiation to make sure we have access to that,” he said. But he indicated that the cash would be front-loaded to make most of it available during the first of the two years.

NHS bodies will be “actively encouraged” to submit joint bids with local authorities in order to help move patient data effectively across the whole care system, he said.

Rice also outlined some of the criteria that councils and health bodies would have to fulfil in order to access the cash.

Firstly, he said that the bids must be for capital funding for systems that are part of change management, rather than replacing existing electronic data systems.

He also said that bids would need to include a cost-benefit estimate, and would only be approved if they estimated a return on investment greater than 1.5 to one.

Any joint proposal must be signed off by local health and wellbeing boards, to ensure “it is not just a token joint proposal”, Rice said.

The use of NHS numbers as an identifier would also be a pre-requisite, and solutions using open API and open source technology would be preferred, he added.

Rice said he could not put a timescale on when the bidding process would be open.

Colin Marrs

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