The National Health Service’s technology, digital and data unit, NHSX, is calling on companies to develop digital tools to support people self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak.
The organisation is collaborating with a government technology venture firm called Public on the Techforce 19 initiative, for which it is making up to £25,000 available for each company for a test phase of solutions that could be available within weeks.
Four streams have been identified for the process: providing remote social care; optimising the work of the volunteer sector; improving mental health support; and any other solutions to ease pressures on people and services.
This move follows the latest Government’s advice to 1.5 million "vulnerable" people , who have been told to self-isolate for a period of 12 weeks, while anyone in a household where someone has symptoms of coronavirus should to do so for 14 days.
Initially, companies and charities with proposals will be asked to complete an expression of interest form and take part in an interview, following which those selected will receive funds to support testing. NHSX and its partners will then consider the best route for further development.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We know isolation is not easy – especially for older people, those who live alone, have mental health problems or those who care for others.
“If people cannot leave the house, we need to quickly find ways to bring support to them and today I am calling on the strength of our innovative technology sector to take on this challenge.
“Techforce19 will mobilise the UK’s incredible reservoir of talent to develop simple, accessible tools that can be rolled out quickly and help tackle the effect of social isolation.”
NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould said: “This competition is focused on the problems created by isolation, which lend themselves to digital solutions. It will allow NHSX to accelerate the development of those solutions, so within weeks they can help those in isolation suffering from loneliness, mental health issues and other problems.”