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NHS IT Funding: Fortune favours the brave

Earlier this week, Philip Hammond’s budget promised an extra £20.5 billion for the NHS over the next five years. It’s clearly much needed, but how far can it really stretch?

Newspapers tell us on an almost a daily basis of the financial predicament our health service, which can be off-putting for companies, especially those from overseas, considering bringing their projects to the NHS. The need for evidence-based solutions can be a long and arduous process – especially with money and investment seemingly being so scarce!

But take a closer look. Whilst NHS IT budgets still leave a lot to be desired, government investment in digital and tech is both available and forthcoming and this therefore presents unprecedented opportunities for SMEs. It’s just a matter of finding it….

For example, earlier this month, it was announced that £17 million in government funding was to be invested in the development of new health innovations designed to improve patient care. Eight projects based across the UK will receive financial backing after being named winners of the Digital Health Technology Catalyst (DHTC).

The DHTC is a £35 million fund being run over four years that aims to address challenges around the development of new digital health innovations, including solutions that can be commercialised for use in the NHS.

Matt Hancock, secretary of state of health and social care, said when announcing the funding: “Innovative technology has the potential to truly transform healthcare for patients and staff. We are determined to make the NHS the most technologically advanced healthcare system in the world and today’s prizes will help progress towards that goal.”

Separately, back in July, a £37.5 million investment, funded through the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, was announced to set up new research centres connecting regional healthcare data with genetic and biomedical information in the UK. The scheme is aimed to complement NHS England’s Local Health and Care Record Exemplar (LHCRE) programme, and NHS Digital’s Data Services Platform.

The programme is part of the second wave of the £210 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which centres on the use of data for precision medicine and the early diagnosis of diseases.

That’s not to mention the opportunities available through the Academic Health Science Networks and NHS Innovation Accelerators and even through organisations who have been awarded their own funding through the Global Digital Exemplar and Fast Follower Programmes.

So, as a newcomer to the market, where do you find all this information to give you a fighting chance?

Well, it doesn’t bode well, when Simon Eccles, National Chief Clinical Information Officer, was recently quoted saying in HSJ: “Clarity around that offer (of central IT funding) and how you take part in that offer needs to happen, and it needs to happen very quickly.”

NHS England has tried and failed to address this issue, its Innovation Portal, which could have had potential but  appears to take you round in circles. There is no centralised place to go. Most large companies have pre-sales teams to deal with and ultimately expedite the bureaucracy, putting SME’s at a further disadvantage.

But that’s not to say it’s impossible. You will need to do a lot of research, ask a lot of questions, jump through a few hoops and fill out a lot of paperwork. But here are ten sites that will help to start you on your journey. Good luck!

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Innovation Funding Service

Partnering With The NHS To Sell Goods And Services


Funding Resources

NHS Accelerator

NHS Tenders

Innovation And Technology Payment

AHSN Network Resources

NHS Innovation Accelerators