6th November 2013

By Christine Walters

New Department of Health funds offer great opportunity for hospital trusts to implement technology projects, but will the bidding process satisfy everyone? 

The new round of funding awards from the Department of Health excites Christine Walters, Director of IM&T at Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust.  However, is it being implemented as well as NHS trusts would like?  Here Christine gives her view:

The Department of Health will be awarding successful submissions a part of its £260 million Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards Technology Fund in the imminent future.

As one of those organisations that submitted multiple bids for technology funding it is an exciting time.

My enthusiasm for these funding programmes is shared amongst the IT professional community within the NHS.  Indeed 756 submissions totaling £650m were registered.

The fund’s aim will be to improve patient care through IT projects and as the fund’s name indicates this round of awards concerns safer wards and hospitals.

Projects put forward for funding include electronic prescribing, digitalising patient records and the infrastructure needed to host these solutions.

An additional technology fund for nurses and midwifes was announced by David Cameron and will provide £100m boost for NHS organisations looking to improve the delivery of care through technology.

So why should there be any gripe? I am wholeheartedly for such funds but there are issues that the DoH needs to factor into future fund applications. 

Firstly, the submission process has room for improvement.

It is not an entirely transparent decision-making process.  I am not saying it is unfair or not rigorous.  We just don’t know how decisions are made.

What are the judging criteria?  How can we give ourselves the best chance of securing funding?

Why are some projects invited for face-to-face meetings, others to a telephone interview?  Is this an unfair advantage for some?

Will organisations that succeed in gaining funds this time be able to apply again next time?

Then we have the issue of match funding projects, guaranteeing a certain spend and capital in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015.  This is a tight ask.

The result could lead to a sense of resentment and loss of faith in this way of funding from those that do not have their submissions supported, with 756 entries that could be some number.  It is an unwanted and should have been an avoidable scenario.

The funds will be excellent news for staff, hospitals, and suppliers and of course most importantly patients, but the concerns are there.

The DoH is listening.  Whether it has heard enough and taken steps to resolve the issues so that they are not repeated when the next technology fund is launched in January remains to be seen.

Christine.walters@pat.nhs.uk


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