As part of the recent spring budget, Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a £3.4bn package for the NHS, specifically to increase productivity.

This included £430m to support digital transformation to increase access and improve services for patients, £1bn to transform the use of data and reduce time spent on administrative tasks, and £2bn to update IT systems, scaling up the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital.

During his statement to the House of Common, the chancellor said: “When we published the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, I asked the NHS to put together a plan to transform its efficiency and productivity. I wanted better care for patients, more job satisfaction for staff and better value for taxpayers.

“Making changes on the scale we need is not cheap. The investment needed to modernise NHS IT systems, so they are as good as the best in the world costs £3.4bn. But it helps unlock £35bn of savings, ten times that amount.”

The Health Innovation Network is commissioned by NHS England to help the NHS to discover, develop and deploy new ideas, innovations, improvements, and best practice to benefit more patients faster. Many of the innovative solutions we work with don’t just deliver patient benefit, but help to increase productivity, reduce administrative burden for clinicians and ensure better use of resources.

If spread and scaled appropriately, these innovative solutions have the potential to help the NHS to deliver the ambitious 2% increase in productivity that the government funding is reliant on.

The challenge set out by the chancellor is to use digital health technologies, including AI to increase productivity. Health innovation networks have a database of thousands of innovations that are in different stages of development. Taking a handful of examples we look at how new technology solutions can help the NHS with its productivity plan.

C2-Ai – Automated Patient Tracking System

C2-Ai is helping hospitals improve patient safety, reduce mortality and complication risk, and clinical outcomes variation, by providing globally unique AI-backed insights. It also provides the opportunity to improve productivity by reducing and streamlining patient wait lists.

With support from Health Innovation North West Coast, Cheshire & Merseyside ICS was the first to implement C2-Ai’s Patient Tracking List (PTL) triage system across the system. This resulted in saving in saving 125 excess bed-days per 1,000 patients on the PTL, due to less harm being caused and fewer unplanned admissions. There was also up to 15 minutes consultant administrative time saved per patient per triage, which can be used for clinical duties; as well as a 27% reduction in 52-week waiters during the first six weeks of deployment.

Nationally, there are 396,123 patients waiting to start treatment in the NHS for cardiology, with 31,689 waiting to start treatment over 41 weeks, 3,302 of these patients are waiting over 52 weeks. If the same 27% reduction seen in Cheshire and Merseyside was applied nationally, it could potentially reduce the national waiting list for patients waiting over 52 weeks by 891 patients within the first six weeks of deployment.

PRO-MAPP – Digital support tool for transforming preoperative assessment

PRO-MAPP is an intelligent decision support tool that has transformed the preoperative assessment (POA) process in the pre-assessment clinical triage pathway for high volume, low complexity (HVLC) orthopaedic cases.

The tool enables efficient triage by determining whether a face-to-face or telephone assessment is necessary, optimising the allocation of resources.

Implementing PRO-MAPP at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital resulted in a 70% reduction in face-to-face pre-surgery appointments. Without surgical complexity, these patients feed directly into designated HVLC operating lists.

In December 2023, 120,277 patients started admitted treatment for surgical services in England. If PRO-MAPP had delivered the same results on a national scale, 92,000 of these patients could have been effectively assessed over the phone and unnecessary face-to-face appointments avoided during the demanding winter period.

If the same 70% reduction in face-to-face appointments could be achieved nationally, for trauma and orthopaedic services alone this could mean 27,298 fewer face-to-face appointments per month, with a potential cost saving of between £4.1M and £20.9M using PRO-MAPP, per month.

Lenus Health – Predictive AI for Chronic Conditions OPERA Study

Lenus Health provides AI and digital tools to existing care pathways to improve healthcare delivery, reduce admissions and improve outcomes. The Lenus platform focuses on transforming diagnosis pathways, which supports both Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC) recovery by avoiding admissions of undiagnosed patients, and elective care recovery by reducing waiting lists and improving patient experience.

This service began in cardiology where it evidenced a 78% reduction in time to diagnosis for heart failure patients using its digital pathway product.

To date, Lenus has supported more than 17,500 people in the UK and launched the world’s first predictive AI in the direct care of patients with chronic conditions.

Get in touch with your local health innovation network to find out more about what innovations are available to you to help you with your productivity challenges.

Health and social care

NHS productivity

  • Allocating an additional £2.5bn to NHS England for 2024-25, in order to protect day-to-day spending and reduce waiting times.
  • Investing £3.4bn to make productivity improvements in the NHS. This funding will aim to; (1) make the NHS App the single front door through which patients can access NHS services and manage their care; (2) create digitally-enabled prevention and early intervention services; and (3) deliver an improved online experience for patients.
  • £430m will be invested to transform access and services for patients, giving them more choice and the ability to manage and attend appointments virtually.
  • £1bn will be invested to transform the use of data to reduce time spent on unproductive administrative tasks by NHS staff, enabling more than £3bn of savings over five years. This includes: pilots to test the ability of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate back office functions; providing all NHS staff with digital passports and access to a new NHS Staff App and an acceleration of the Federated Data Platform (FDP).
  • £2bn will be invested to update fragmented and outdated IT systems across the NHS, reducing 13m hours wasted by doctors every year and enabling up to £4bn of savings over five years. These steps will include: upgrading IT systems, scaling up existing use of AI and ensuring all NHS staff are equipped with modern computing technology; ensuring all NHS Trusts have Electronic Patient Records by March 2026; upgrading over one hundred MRI scanners with AI; and digitising transfers of care.
  • Work with NHS England to reduce the cost of expensive agency staffing. NHS England will review agency price caps and tighten rules.

 Maternity services

  • Investment of £35m over the next three years to improve maternity safety, with specialist training for staff and additional midwives.
  • An additional 6,000 midwives will be trained in neonatal resuscitation.
  • Investment of £9m over three years to roll out the Avoiding Brain Injuries in Childbirth programme across maternity units in England.

 Public health

  • Introduction of a new duty on vaping products from October 2026, with registrations for the duty opening from 1 April 2026. The rate will vary depending on nicotine strength. A 12-week consultation has been launched.
  • Close the Alcohol Duty Stamps Scheme following a review by HMRC.
  • Freeze alcohol duty until February 2025.

 Social care

  • The Government has confirmed the additional £500m of new funding for councils to support adult and children social care.

 Science, technology and innovation

 Digital, technology and AI

  • The Government will deliver a new £7.4m AI Upskilling Fund pilot. This will help SMEs develop the AI skills of the future.
  • Launch an SME Digital Adoption Taskforce, which will investigate how best to support the adoption of digital technology by SMEs.
  • Introduction of two new data pilots to drive high quality AI in education and improve access to data in adult social care for a total of £3.5m.
  • Confirm the design details of the data research cloud pilots announced last year.
  • Deliver up to £100m to the Turing Institute over the next five years.

Life sciences

  • A new life sciences hub and healthcare diagnostic facility will be built in Canary Wharf as part of a £118m Government investment.
  • The Government will announce that funding competitions for large scale investments will open for expressions of interest this summer with a separate competition for medium and smaller sized companies opening in the Autumn.
  • Provide £45m through the Medical Research Charities Early Career Researchers Support Fund.
  • Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has outlined plans to invest £650 million in the UK – helping boost the UK’s world leading Life Sciences sector and grow the economy. This includes investing £450 million at its manufacturing site in Speke, Liverpool, for the research, development, and manufacture of vaccines.

SME/innovator support

The Government will:

  • Rename the Recovery Loan Scheme as the Growth Guarantee Scheme and extend it until the end of March 2026.
  • HMRC has published new guidance around the tax deductibility of training costs for sole traders and the self employed.
  • Increase the VAT registration threshold from £85,000 to £90,000, and the deregistration threshold from £83,000 to £88,000, freezing them at these levels. This will apply from 1 April 2024.
  • Legislate to reinstate the previous eligibility criteria to qualify as a high net worth or sophisticated investor.
  • Launch the SME Digital Adoption Taskforce which will investigate how best to support the adoption of digital technology by SMEs in order to boost their productivity.

Science and innovation

  • Deliver £250m Faraday Discovery Fellowships and £150m Green Future Fellowships through endowments to the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
  • Allocate £14m for infrastructure used by public sector research and innovation organisations.
  • Confirm up to £100m to launch the national component of the full £160m CLEO programme, which will enable UK researchers and businesses to perform the research and development needed for the next generation of satellite constellations.
  • Allocate £1.6m in 2024-25 to an error correction programme in quantum computing.
  • HMRC will establish an expert advisory panel to support the administration of the R&D tax reliefs. The panel will provide insights into the cutting-edge R&D occurring across key sectors such as tech and life sciences, and work with HMRC to review relevant guidance, ensuring it remains up to date and provides clarity to claimants.
  • The Government will ask universities to report on their spin-out policies by the end of May 2024 and has also begun consulting on the design of the new £20m proof-of-concept fund and the pilot approach to supporting the establishment by universities of shared Technology Transfer Offices.

Support for Advanced Manufacturing

  • Confirmed plans for the £50m Apprenticeship Growth Sector pilot. This will boost funding for eligible providers delivering 13 high-value apprenticeship standards in advanced manufacturing, green and life sciences sectors.


Levelling up

Investment zones and freeports

  • The Government has announced further details on Investment Zones in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, North East of England, South Yorkshire, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.
  • The Government has also confirmed that the Tees Valley Investment Zone will focus on the digital and creative sectors.
  • Investment Zones will be extended from five to ten years in Scotland and Wales, matching the extension announced for England at Autumn Statement 2023. Full details of the four Investment Zones in Scotland and Wales will be announced later this year.
  • The Government has published the prospectus for the Investment Opportunity Fund.
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