Government funding of up to £500,000 will be awarded to tech sector innovations that help to counter the ill effects of social isolation, including providing mental health support and meeting social care needs.
NHSX (the NHS unit tasked with the digital transformation of health and social care) will award funding of up to £25,000 per company that rises to the challenge. The focus should particularly be on “older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems or those who care for others,” who will be hardest hit by having to remain housebound, according to the health secretary Matt Hancock.
“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,” Hancock said. “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.
‘’I am calling on our brilliant tech sector to take on this challenge.”
According to the Department of Health and Social Care this type of innovation could cover the following possible areas:
- Providing remote social care – for example by locating and matching qualified carers to those in need and managing and delivering care in care homes
- Optimisation of the care and volunteer sector – for example by developing tools to recruit, train and coordinate local volunteers into clinical and non-clinical workers. Or by developing tools to predict demand for health and care workers across the country to improve deployment and management of resources
- Improving mental health support – for example by making it easier to discover and deliver mental health services and support, or by developing tools to support self-management of mental health and well -being.
- Any other solutions to ease pressures on services and people during this time.
“Tech can play an important role in helping the country deal with the challenges created by coronavirus,” Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said in a statement. “This competition is focussed 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 is being launched by NHSX and managed by GovTech venture firm PUBLIC.
The closing date for applications is 26 March 2020. Announcement of startups selected to take part in the programme will take place on 3 April.