Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Supporting innovation and adoption of technology across the NHS [June 2023]

The press release issued by the Department of Health and Social Care on 13 June 2023.

Lord Markham’s keynote speech at London Tech Week 2023.

I’m delighted to be here with you all today at our annual Health Tech Summit in collaboration with London Tech Week.

As you will have heard from the Prime Minister earlier today, this government has a clear mission – to make the UK the most innovative economy in the world. The UK tech industry is one of the engines for economic growth and a clear representation of our plan to cement the UK’s status as a Science and Technology ‘Superpower’ by 2030.

Last year, the UK became just the third country in the world to have a tech sector valued at $1 trillion. It is the biggest in Europe by some distance and behind only the US and China globally.

I want to illustrate my passion about the role of innovation and technology in improving the health of our nation, and how I’ve seen the power they hold first-hand. During my role as ITV Strategy Director, I discovered the power of innovation during the transition from analogue to digital TV while pioneering the move to Freeview.

I later moved into healthcare where the company I set up significantly reduced the waiting time for PCR results from 72 hours down to just 3 or 4 hours. It was at this point I also experienced first-hand the challenges of doing business with the NHS, so I sympathise wholeheartedly with anyone who’s struggled in that regard and am committed to removing barriers and ensuring our health service remains on the frontline of innovation.

Today I’d like to talk to you about how government is supporting innovation and the adoption of digital health technologies, offering significant opportunities to transform the way we deliver access to health and care, with some substantial investment and activity to boost the range of technologies available for adoption across the NHS.

As we all know, the NHS is under increasing pressure.

This is arising from increasing demand, an ageing population, and co-morbidities to name a few factors. At the same time, healthcare expenditure represented around 12% of GDP in 2021. This cost to our economy is only set to increase in future years and we have a real challenge to ensure that the NHS is sustainable.

Digital and technology is one major way that we will address some of the challenges that face the NHS. We know that digitally mature trusts operate with approximately 10% improved efficiency compared with their less digitally mature peers.

We are exploring new technologies which it would be useful for the NHS to adopt and we’re working collaboratively across a range of areas to support companies to develop and deploy digital health technologies and I’d like to share some examples with you.

The Small Business Research Initiative Healthcare award programme supports innovators and entrepreneurs. As of 2022 to 2023, the programme has made cumulative investments of over £129 million and has funded a total of 324 projects.

The Digital Health Partnership Award has funded 43 NHS projects identified as novel, with the potential to scale at pace. The technologies are focused on supporting people at home and over 140,000 patients have been supported in under 2 years.

Innovate UK provides funding to UK-based businesses or research organisations to support and stimulate innovation in the UK economy, offering grants of between £25,000 and £10 million and innovation loans of between £100,000 and £1 million.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research works with industry at all stages of the clinical development pipeline. Funding is available to support promising innovations to generate the evidence needed to get to market.

We’ve provided £123 million to test and evaluate 86 AI technologies in areas such as urgent stroke care, home testing for disease and cancer screening. These technologies are being deployed and scaled across 99 hospitals, and 300 primary care networks in the UK.

We’re working on coordinating these investment programmes and evidencing the impact for scale across the NHS – I will return to this point a little later.

As well as the excellent technologies which currently exist, we continue to identify new opportunities to support innovation that can be scaled at a national level. I am excited to share further details of our plans for digital therapeutics.

In March the Chancellor included £225 million of ringfenced funding within the Budget for digital mental health and musculoskeletal, known as MSK, initiatives.

We’re accelerating the deployment and adoption of clinical grade technologies that are evidence-based, and used to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease. The first mental health and MSK products will be available via the NHS App later this year, allowing 24/7 access to suit lifestyle factors without the need for a clinician referral.

This is a significant change, moving from these technologies only being available in some areas of the country, and for those who have been referred into a clinical pathway. This demonstrates our commitment to scaling well evidenced technologies and breaking down commissioning barriers. And these 2 areas are only the start.

And, we’ll pilot new, novel mental health technology that has potential to transform our model of care, enabling our citizens to have access years earlier to the most promising technologies.

We’ll also be levelling up the use of digital tools within our existing NHS mental health talking therapies services so that people have support from day one while waiting for their appointment.

We are supporting the NHS to be in a better position to adopt the right technologies.

A key priority for technology funding is supporting health and care systems to ‘level up’ their digital maturity and ensure they have a core level of infrastructure, digitisation and skills by March 2025.

The What Good Looks Like guidance builds on established good practice to provide clear direction for health and social care leaders to digitise, connect and transform services to improve outcomes for the people we serve.

To support systems level up, we’re conducting a digital maturity assessment to help organisations baseline their current level of digital maturity against What Good Looks Like to improve decision-making, identify opportunities for collaboration, and enhance patient experience.

The assessment is an essential tool for health and care systems to track their levelling up journey and will be repeated annually to track progress.

Digital maturity is just one side of the picture however. The New Hospital Programme will ensure our world-class healthcare system and staff have the facilities they need for the future. It will help to bring things together in terms of tech and modern building design. Digital design is at the heart of our approach to standardisation in the New Hospital Programme. Our aim is for this to bring even greater productivity gains than digital alone and there could be 20% productivity gains from that, which will encourage the Treasury to help fund even more new hospitals.

Data Saves Lives, published a year ago this week, set the strategy for making better use of data to improve services and transform lives. This document provided the ambitious direction, and good progress has been made on implementing it. Over half of the commitments we promised are now delivered, including ensuring that all 42 of our integrated care systems have a shared care record in place and the agreement of a target architecture for health and care. But we now need to move deeper into delivery, so more people can enjoy the benefits of a modern, data-driven health and care service. You’ll hear more about our progress later this month.

As I’ve already mentioned, we’re working to evidence the impact of digital health technologies for scale across the NHS and to develop a clear policy framework and market pathway to support this.

NHS England are working collaboratively with NICEMHRA and other partners to create a clear, efficient and user-centred pathway to scale digital health technologies in the NHS.

The pathway is being co-designed with views from industry and will be reflective of the dynamic market.

The proposed commercial pathway will determine how products will be recommended across the NHS, which will provide clarity for innovators about how they evidence their products and how they will be reimbursed. The process will support the emerging digital health technology market, while providing value for money for the NHS. It will help to consolidate the buying points, streamline market access for industry and will also provide opportunity to leverage the buying power of the NHS.

A conditional recommendation pathway is being designed to support innovators to gather evidence while undergoing the evaluation process.

This improved pathway will enable a faster, more flexible route to market for digital health technologies across the NHS.

We’re working to increase visibility and compliance with technology standards through the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC).

DTAC is a critical assurance process for all digital health technologies used for medical, health and wellness, or system efficiency purposes.

It ensures that technologies deployed within the NHS meet our baseline standards for clinical safety, data protection, cyber security, interoperability and accessibility and usability.

We’ve introduced audits which provide critical information on the level of risk we’re holding in relation to digital health technologies and clinical systems and gives us the first national picture of what digital health technologies are deployed where across the NHS. We continue to ensure that standards are not a blocker for technology adoption.

We’ve developed guidance on which framework agreements to use to simplify buying digital and IT goods and services.

Our digital and technology procurement framework strategy recommendations make the procurement process easier for both buyers and vendors to navigate, removing duplication and reducing costs.

We’ve introduced a number of nationally led dynamic purchasing systems enabling buyers and sellers to be agile in the purchasing and supply of digital solutions for the NHS.

AI and digital can have transformative impact, but only if developed safely, ethically and in line with best practice in evidence based medicine. That’s why we funded the AI and Digital Regulations Service, which brings together all guidance on regulations that apply to digital and AI in one place, as well as advice on ensuring it is truly value-adding.

I’m happy to announce the service has launched in full today – so if you’re a developer of AI, or a clinician or social care worker looking to use AI, you can use the service’s website for information and help to do it the right way.

If you’re developing an AI device, you’ll find which regulations you need to meet and when.

If you’re looking to adopt an AI device, you’ll find guidance to help you feel confident about using AI in your health or care service.

Users have told us this ‘one stop shop’ has made it easier to understand regulations and saved them time in bringing products to market.

This is a partnership led by NICEMHRACQC and HRA, but brings in even more relevant regulators such as the Information Commissioner’s Office; demonstrating one way our health service is leading in innovation-friendly regulation.

This is the direction across the rest of government, as the AI regulations white paper looks to provide joined-up support like this to developers.

Despite the undeniable progress we’ve already made, we must be restless and relentless in our drive to ensure that the UK maintains its rightful place at the cutting edge of innovation. And we must continue to make the UK the go to place for industry to develop healthcare innovations, with access to the best data in the world to do so.

I am absolutely determined to ensure that my experience of the challenges of doing business with the NHS are addressed. We are working hard on multiple fronts to streamline the market pathway, listening to the concerns of industry and taking practical steps to ensure market access is a lot smoother.

I‘m more confident than ever that together we can create one of the most exciting health innovation systems in the world.

Thank you very much for listening.