We want to improve services in health and care – but it’s not just about having the right people and processes, we need the tools and technology to help us do it.
It’s a frequent and understandable plea and one which I and Department of Health ministers have heard many times when meeting with the sector. So often, intent is delayed or defeated by technology which is not fit for purpose. If we are serious about the integration of better, safer health and care services, improved patient experiences and a reduced burden on professionals, then investment in technology has to be part of that plan. From integrating patient care records, to mobile working, to citizen access to information, the IT underpinning our health and care system has to be robust, reliable and keep pace with the speed of technological change.
In parallel, we also need to make a virtue of the range and diversity of providers across the health and care system (including charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises) and support them in their efforts to innovate and improve services.
That’s why I’m delighted the Department, in collaboration with Local Partnerships and Big Society Capital, has announced the launch of the Technology Spin-out Fund (TSF) - £6 million worth of loans earmarked for technology investment. Spin-outs, if you didn’t already know, are independent organisations created by former public service employees providing services back to the public sector.
In this era of financial constraint, the fund’s offer of individual loans between £250,000 and £1 million is a real boost to new or existing social enterprises struggling to find the investment to grow their businesses and meet the technological demands of the sector.
The fund’s aims are simple and twofold: to improve patient care and build organisational resilience through investment in technology. In the past, spin-outs have struggled to access this kind of finance in the commercial market, so we hope the comparatively competitive interest rate and 3-5 year repayment term will encourage them to apply.
I should say our investment in spin-outs is nothing new. Over the years, the Department has invested around £100 million in nearly 600 health and social care enterprises through the Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF) – the John Taylor Hospice in Birmingham being a prime example and the first of its kind to become a social enterprise in 2011. The hospice management team quickly identified a need for IT investment, driven partly by the need to bring IT in-house and away from NHS Shared Services. The £456,000 investment received provided new servers, e-rostering and mobile technology for 45 clinical staff, helping them maintain and improve their responsive, patient centred approach to end of life care.
So, if you’re currently working in or with social enterprises (including those in a pre-launch phase), or considering commissioning services from them, you might want to mention TSF. I’d especially encourage this if you’re working with trusted providers in whom you have great faith but worry they may not have capacity to match the volume of work required. Better IT continues to be a tough nut to crack. We need to match the commitment to improve with the will to invest. The TSF could be the latest, best way to maintain a beautiful relationship!
Find out more
Email TSF@local.gov.uk or call the Local Partnerships’ Social Investment Team on 020 7187 7379