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Government launches prize fund for mental health apps

UK government promises a £650,000 mental health apps prize fund and an NHS kitemark programme for apps

Health and life sciences minister George Freeman has launched a £650,000 prize fund to develop mental health apps.

Speaking at the NHS Innovation Expo in Manchester, Freeman said mental health disorders affect one in four people and cost £105bn each year, and there is a great need to develop new digital services for those living with mental health issues.

“I’m delighted to announce that the government is pledging £650,000 to a new innovation prize to the development of digital tools to improve mental health outcomes,” he said. The fund will be held by NHS England.

Freeman also announced the development of the “world’s first endorsement model” for approved apps, which the government hopes will help the NHS to support new innovations.

Healthcare needs to be transformed to be fit for the 21st-century world “in which we empower people to take more responsibility over their own health and life choices”, he said.

“A new endorsement model for NHS approved apps and an innovation prize for mental health apps will help the NHS lead the way in giving patients more personalised care.”

“Nearly 6.5 million patients can already book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online, and three million patients are registered for online access to GP records," said Freman. "But we need to continue to encourage patients to use new technologies to better manage their health, care and treatment.”

The endorsement model is developed by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Public Health England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre, and will ensure that both patients and professionals will be able to find useful apps that are safe to use. The pilot of the model will begin this month and rolled out in 2016.

Commenting on the endorsement model, NHS England director of patients and information Tim Kelsey said the endorsement programme “will allow app developers to get an NHS kitemark for services we think are safe and valuable for our patients”. NHS England already operates an Apps Library as part of NHS Choices, but apps are not currently kitemarked. 

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