Six NHS trusts in northeast England embark on ‘largest deployment’ of digital care in the country

A digital health and care project involving six NHS trusts in northeast England has developed over 50 services – in a bid to improve patient outcomes and create ‘capacity’ in an overstretched system.

Health Call, a toolkit containing apps for a range of conditons, is being led by Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and five other trusts which have signed a three-year licensing deal with digital health firm Inhealthcare.

It is understood that the services are being offered to health organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with Inhealthcare describing the collaborative venture as the largest of its kind in the country.

Health Call offer patients a choice of channels, catering for users who wish to opt for services via automated telephone service, SMS, web portal or app. Examples of services provided include chronic pain, falls prevention, weight management, smoking cessation, gestational diabetes, hypertension and flu vaccination.

Under a ‘do once and share agreement’, the service is easily expanded to other NHS trusts seeking to provide remote monitoring and self-management services.

In Scotland, NHS Lothian is using the Health Call ‘undernutrition’ service and NHS Tayside is using a spin-off of the same service, which allows care homes to refer patients directly to dietetics. Inhealthcare is also creating a number of services with the health boards, including for Coeliac disease, IBS and an ONS ordering service which will predict the amount of supplements dietetics are required to order for a care home.

Graham King, Chief Information Officer at the Newcastle Hospitals, explained: “Patients are increasingly demanding the ability to interact with their personal health and care records through digital applications and services. In order to meet this demand six NHS organisations collaborated to create Health Call, an innovative digital platform that allows tailored personalised services to be created for our patients, delivered through our Clinical and Digital teams, working together.

“We’ve already seen the development of a range of more than 50 services through Health Call and these services are now being adopted by health organisations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“A ‘do once and share’ agreement is reducing delivery costs and patients using the service are benefiting from being able to better engage and manage their health care, whilst reducing the overheads of attending physical appointments. I am looking forward to continuing to expand and introduce new services over the next three years.”

To help clinicians create their own digital health applications, Health Call has developed a unique ‘toolkit’ as well as a growing library of over 50 applications.

One example is the Tyneside Integrated Musculoskeletal Services (TIMS), a mainly online service managed jointly between the Newcastle Hospitals and Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust which offers a self-care toolkit via an app based website giving a range of easy to follow tips and advice, as well as fast access to expert opinion, diagnosis and treatment of a variety of muscle, joint and soft tissue conditions and chronic pain.

Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare said: “We have worked closely with NHS providers in the North East of England over the last seven years and believe the region is at the cutting edge of collaboration and innovation in the NHS.

“The Health Call collaboration started at a single hospital trust in 2017 and now has grown to six trusts. It is helping to transform the way care is delivered in the North East and North Cumbria.

“The region’s long-term commitment is an important milestone for Inhealthcare and follows our successful launch in London at the start of the year.”

The Trusts involved are County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.