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TECH CHALLENGE LAUNCHED TO OFFER DIGITAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK

NHSX Launches Techforce19

People who are required to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because of Coronavirus (COVID-19) could soon benefit from new technology that aims to combat the effects of social isolation. 

NHSX has announced funding will be made available to innovators who can find digital ways to support those who need help during the outbreak – including people requiring mental health support and those with social care needs.

The technology is intended to supplement existing support for those who may be most affected by the consequences of remaining housebound for long periods of time.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Staying at home and avoiding contact with others will be absolutely necessary in reducing the spread of this virus and, ultimately, it will save lives.

“However, 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.

‘’I am calling on our brilliant tech sector to take on this challenge.”

In total, there is £500,000 available to bid for – with funding of up to £25,000 per company available to innovators with solutions that could be deployed at scale in the next few weeks. Specifically, the programme is looking for digital solutions that can be deployed quickly, and could include: 

•Providing remote social care - for example, by locating and matching qualified carers to those in need and managing and delivering care in care homes.

•Optimisation of the care and volunteer sector - for example, by developing tools to recruit, train and coordinate local volunteers into clinical and non-clinical workers. Or by developing tools to predict demand for health and care workers across the country to improve deployment and management of resources.

•Improving mental health support - for example, by making it easier to discover and deliver mental health services and support, or by developing tools to support self-management of mental health and wellbeing.

•Any other solutions to ease pressures on services and people during this time.

Matthew Gould, Chief Executive of NHSX, said: “Tech can play an important role in helping the country deal with the challenges created by coronavirus. This competition is focussed 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.”

The programme is being launched by NHSX and managed by GovTech venture firm PUBLIC and is encouraging innovators to apply with technological solutions. PUBLIC will not receive any payment for running this competition. 

Techforce19 is a new challenge, open to innovative tech companies in this country who will compete to develop accessible digital tools to support people who are staying at home over the coming weeks and months.

Recruitment for innovators taking part in the challenge programme is now open and applications will close on 26th March 2020. Announcement of start-ups selected to take part in the programme will take place on 3rd April. 

For more information on the programme and how to apply, visit Techforce19.uk.

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