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We know what good looks like…now we need to access the funding to build it

NHSX have published ‘Who Pays For What’ and the ‘Unified Tech Fund Prospectus’ alongside ‘What Good Looks Like’. This presents the clear opportunity for ICSs to deliver a step change in digital maturity. Channel 3 Partner Eleanor Rollason reviews ‘Who Pays for What’ and offers some sound advice on how to improve your chances of securing the funding from the £680m Unified Tech Fund.

The recent NHSX “Who Pays for What” (WPfW) guidance, supported by the Unified Tech Fund, will enable health and care organisations to access the funding needed to accelerate innovation, build digital capability and capacity and pay dividends for people, patients and staff.  In this article we discuss how you can access the funding, what it’s intended to pay for and some hints and tips on how to be successful in bids.

Last week’s announcements came thick and fast.  Read Channel 3’s blog on “What Good Looks Like (WGLL)”, where he pulls out the key points from that document and discusses how health and care organisations can benefit from the guidance provided.  Guidance and intent need to be supported by funding and so the WPfW companion piece on where to go for investment funding was very welcome.

Stepping over the past challenges of getting funding to those that need it, the new approach provides some certainty over funding arrangements for the next few years and signposts the transition from central to local funding.  This is a key enabler of local planning and solves one of the largest issues with previous schemes. 

The funding will be allocated according to three criteria.  Firstly, in line with the NHSX message of digitise, connect and transform, there is recognition that not all organisations are moving at the same pace, starting from the same point or heading towards the same aspirations.  There is a healthy dose of realism, not least around the nascent ICSs who need to be stood up as legal entities and run along the forming, norming and performing path.  Secondly, the funding is allocated at different organisational levels so it can be targeted at need in systems, places and neighbourhoods across the country.  Thirdly, the funding is aligned to strategy and policy, supported by standards.

We would expect lots of applications for funding to start with a reference to the NHSX priorities, set out clearly in WPfW:

So, how do you apply?  Well, the Unified Tech Fund (UTF) is the mechanism, and the prospectus for applications is here. This amounts to £680m available to NHS organisations throughout the financial year 2021 to 2022.

Be quick!  The applications need to be placed this year and so if you have a desire to digitally enable the following then you will need to start now – the call for bids is open:

WPfW call for bids

Of course, it is tempting to be perturbed by the risk of running hard at a bid only to be unsuccessful.  There are so many competing pressures on time.  We are still dealing with Covid, approaching winter, dealing with all sorts of resource challenges and there are structural challenges relating to the capability and capacity of the whole of the UK workforce – especially in the technology space.  So, how do you increase your chances of winning?

Channel 3 has been working across the business case continuum – we have been supporting cases for resolving the most fundamental digitisation issues (such as getting infrastructure foundations right and mitigating key risks like cyber), mobilising teams to implement new and innovative technologies and providing assurance where the benefits and value of projects need to be assessed.  Here are three top tips relating to common threads we have experienced:

Tip 1 – Steal with pride

There is now a wealth of knowledge of what does and does not work, in enabling digital transformation to take place.

Tip 2 – Use capacity in the market to help

Support is widely available and now more easily accessible from private sector teams who can enable you to mobilise quickly, and whose experience should enable you to mitigate the risk of over-committing to speculative bids.

Tip 3 – Get on with it

Easier said than done with everyone being so busy, however those who are quickest of the mark with a clear strategy and execution plan aligned to the themes of WGLL / WPfW will do best out of this process.  Paradoxically this risks creating inequality, as those who are most challenged may be those who struggle to mobilise quickly.  Support is available to mitigate this risk.  Please do ask if you need help to access it.

WGLL and WPfW, supported by the UTF, have the potential to pump-prime a wave of digitisation that has not previously been seen in the NHS and local government (at an integrated care system level).  Make sure you use this opportunity to get your share of the investment funding and don’t be afraid to ask for support if you need it.

About the author

Eleanor Rollason - Channel 3

Eleanor has led multiple complex digital programmes across health and care systems, delivering tangible benefits, sustainable change and exceptional value for clients. Having worked in the healthcare sector for the last 30 years in clinical, operational and advisory roles, Eleanor has a real passion for making a difference in health and care services by driving improvements in patient care and transforming services. You can contact Eleanor using our online form or on Linkedin.

Submit your funding questions to Channel 3 - our experienced team are happy to help!

Call +44(0)20 3866 4838 or email info@channel3consulting.co.uk

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