This site is intended for health professionals only

£48m funding available for ICBs to buy digital tools

£48m funding available for ICBs to buy digital tools
By Rima Evans
20 May 2024

A pot of at least £48m has been made available to ICBs for 2024/25 to buy digital tools required by practices to enhance patients’ online access and alleviate the 8am rush, as set out in the recovery plan.

The central fund will cover a range of products that help practices move to the ‘modern general practice model’ such as online consultation, care navigation, messaging and appointment booking solutions (see box below).

These allow surgeries to assess patient needs from initial online contact, navigate them to the appropriate point of care, enable patient interactions, as well as offer the ability to book appointments. 

In guidance published last month, NHS England said that the £48m available for this year for ICBs equates to an average of 76p per patient. However, it signalled there may be more money on the table.

It said: ‘Requests up to a maximum annual equivalent of 93p per patient will be considered with funding allocated to ICBs on a first-come first-served basis once full details of costs have been received. This allows funding to be applied for as it is required.’

NHS England has also confirmed that previously agreed commitments made by ICBs in relation to the recovery plan in 2023/24 will continue to be funded this year.

The guidance advised that practices and PCNs should ‘continue to link with their ICB digital leads to ensure their requirements are discussed’.

The £48m is part of the £240m fund announced by Government last year to encourage practices to ‘embrace technology’. The money is expected to cover a four-year period from January 2024 to 2028.

Meanwhile, NHS England has said that a new framework being developed to help with the procurement of digital tools and that will ensure they are standardised has been delayed due to an ongoing legal challenge.

The Digital Pathways Framework is expected to be out this June at the earliest, although the delay doesn’t affect the availability of the £48m funding, NHS England has said.

In the meantime, ICBs are being given information on how to buy products through other routes and on contract extensions and reimbursements.

They will have to continue to work with the National Commercial and Procurement Hub to ensure that the products they select meet the required capabilities and standards for accessing the central funding available.

ICBs have also been told that they should work ‘collaboratively’ with practices so that any requests made by them for specific products or capabilities are given ‘due consideration’.

Digital tools being purchased must meet the required capabilities

Core capabilities:

  • online consultations and administrative request reporting 
  • online patient or service user consultation 
  • care navigation 
  • online administrative requests 

Supplementary or enhanced capabilities:  

  • prescription ordering (for patients) 
  • communication management 
  • video consultation 
  • record viewing (for patients) 
  • cross organisational appointment booking

Products offering these solutions will be included in the Digital Pathways Framework due out later this year.

Source: NHS England

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Management in Practice.

Want news like this straight to your inbox?

Related articles