NHSX has launched a challenge programme for the rapid development of digital tools to support people self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak.
It is collaborating with govtech venture firm Public on the Techforce 19 initiative, in which it is making up to £25,000 per company available for a test phase of solutions that could be available within a few weeks.
Four streams have been identified for the process: providing remote social care; optimising the work of the volunteer sector; improving mental health support; and any other solutions to ease pressures on people and services.
This follows the Government’s advice to older and vulnerable people to stay at home, anyone in a household where someone has symptoms of coronavirus to do so for 14 days, and for people to sharply reduce their social interactions during the outbreak.
Initially, companies and charities with proposals will be asked to complete an expression of interest form and take part in an interview, following which those selected will receive funds to support testing. NHSX and its partners will then consider the best route for further development.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We know isolation is not easy – especially for older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems or those who care for others.
“If people cannot leave the house, we need to quickly find ways to bring support to them and today I am calling on the strength of our innovative technology sector to take on this challenge.
“Techforce19 will mobilise the UK’s incredible reservoir of talent to develop simple, accessible tools that can be rolled out quickly and help tackle the effect of social isolation.”
Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “This competition is focused on the problems created by isolation, which lend themselves to digital solutions.
It will allow NHSX to accelerate the development of those solutions, so within weeks they can help those in isolation suffering from loneliness, mental health issues and other problems.”
The programme team has emphasised that the competition is not aimed at providing solutions that are trying to solve clinical problems or require integration with NHS systems.
Image from nhs.uk, Open Government Licence v3.0