Scottish health board expands VR pilot, NHS trust ditches fax machines, and more UK news briefs

By Leontina Postelnicu
01:04 PM
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Also: Sensyne Health announces three-year research alliance with the University of Oxford Big Data Institute; local authorities in England are invited to apply for a share of £1m in funding for digital innovation in social care.

Scottish NHS board turns to VR to help patients prepare for MRI scans. NHS Highland is partnering with NHS Education for Scotland to help patients prepare for their MRI scans by offering them a virtual MRI experience, either at the hospital or through an app and a headset delivered to them.

The pilot scheme was initially aimed at children, and is now being extended to include adult patients through funding from the Health Foundation. It aims to help claustrophobic patients and reduce the need for general anaesthetic in MRI scans for children.

“We’re excited to support this project, one of twenty three that have been developed by frontline teams to improve health and social care across the UK,” said Sarah Henderson, Health Foundation assistant director of improvement programmes. “We are looking forward to working with the teams to develop their innovative ideas, put them into practice, and gather evidence about how their projects are improving care for patients.”

Last week, the BBC reported that NHS Highland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise – a government agency - and the University of the Highlands and Islands were exploring the potential to use drones in the transport of medical supplies between GP practices, hospitals and care homes, following a prior information notice that was released towards the end of January.

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NHS trust implements electronic solution, ditches outdated tech. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) is rolling out an electronic solution to get rid of its last remaining fax machines. The trust has been involved in a national Axe the Fax campaign, launched after research from the Royal College of Surgeons indicated in July last year that NHS hospital trusts in England owned more than 8,000 fax machines.

“eFax is highly cost-effective and provides a far more secure way of communicating with key stakeholders in a patients’ care,” said Chris Archer, LTHT computer services manager. “It will support the removal of traditional fax machines and ensure parties, such as GPs and pharmacies, struggling to relinquish their fax still have a simple method of communicating with the trust.”

In December, the government banned the NHS from purchasing the outdated gadgets, which will all be phased out by the end of March next year. “I am instructing the NHS to stop buying fax machines and I’m setting a deadline for getting rid of them altogether," health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said at the time. "Email is much more secure and miles more effective than fax machines."

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Clinical AI tech company and Oxford Big Data Institute create research alliance. Sensyne Health announced towards the end of January a three-year research programme with the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute (BDI) to advance the analysis and interpretation of NHS datasets, using clinical AI, focusing initially on chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

“This new collaboration with the BDI is designed to apply world-class data science to the growing burden of chronic disease on society, and create an effective partnership between the NHS, industry and academia that delivers scalable improvements to patient care, accelerates the discovery and development of new medicines and shares the commercial value created with our partner NHS Trusts and the University of Oxford,” said Lord Drayson, CEO of Sensyne Health.

The company also announced in January that it had signed two Strategic Research Agreements, with the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and the Wye Valley NHS Trust, to analyse anonymised patient data using its clinical AI technology, with the aim to accelerate medical research and improve care.

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NHS Digital funds projects driving digital innovation in social care. Local authorities in England have until 7 March to apply for a share of £1m in funding, provided by NHS Digital and managed by the Local Government Association, for projects using digital technology to improve adult social care.

The two-year programme is divided into a discovery phase, with ten councils receiving up to £30,000 to design a digital solution, and an implementation phase, which will see eight projects receive up to 90,000 in further funding.

Previous projects include the use of biometric wearable devices for people with autism and complex learning disabilities to help spot anxiety triggers, and an app aiming to streamline recruitment processes.

“Every year we see some truly innovative projects that take a creative digital approach to solving the challenges that local authorities face in social care,” said Pam Garraway, NHS Digital senior responsible officer for social care. “We are now looking forward to seeing the exciting proposals that will come forward in response to this round of funding.”