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Government pumps more funding into NHS ‘test beds’ programme

Seven new “test beds” will receive £7m to trial a range of technologies to improve patient care in the second wave of the NHS Test Beds Programme

The government is launching the second wave of its NHS Test Beds Programme, with seven projects across the country sharing more than £7m in funding to trial technology in clinical settings.

The money – £5m from the Department of Health and Social Care and more than £2m from NHS England – will be used to test a range of technologies, from digital platforms to mobile apps and artificial intelligence (AI).  

The projects are spread across seven locations, and the aim is for successful innovations to eventually be made available to NHS and care organisations nationally.

At Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, staff will test a breast cancer screening AI tool, aimed at helping to deliver more accurate results and streamline the operational aspects of services. The project also aims to develop new models for safely using AI across the NHS.

In Manchester, meanwhile, the Greater Manchester Strategic Clinical Networks are testing a “one-stop” website for patients with diabetes, called Diabetes My Way, to manage their condition.

Jon Rouse, chief officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, who is leading the programme, described it as a “ground-breaking project” with the potential to improve the lives of thousands of people. 

Other projects to receive funding include Royal Stoke University Hospital, which is combining three technologies to reduce A&E admissions for patients with chronic heart failure; and Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, which is giving patients access to their records to allow them to view appointment scheduling and waiting times, and to remotely report their health status. 

The government is also pumping £2m into its Accelerated Access Partnership Rapid Uptake Products, a programme that aims to spread seven innovative treatments for a range of medical conditions. These include Heartflow, a non-invasive cardiac test; improved diagnostic tests for colorectal cancer; and placental growth factor-based testing for suspected pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

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Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said the aim of the programmes is to ensure patients “are the first to benefit from the tech revolution happening across the NHS”.   

He added: “Every day, innovative new treatments are demonstrating the power technology has to save lives – and I want to make these opportunities available across the whole NHS.

“These programmes will fast-track innovations from lab bench to patient bedside and help ensure that NHS patients continue to be the first to benefit from the life-changing treatments developed in this country.” 

The government claims the rapid uptake of products will help 500,000 patients to access new treatments, as well as saving the NHS £30m.

Business secretary Greg Clark said the collaboration between innovators and the NHS “will rapidly bring life-saving products into real-world clinical settings”. 

 “From the first vaccine to the first blood transfusion, the UK has an unmatched reputation in medical research and innovation.” he added.

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