Health service embracing innovation as NHS England announces major trials to improve patient care

Older patients and people with long term conditions and mental health problems will be among the first to benefit from a major new drive to modernise how the NHS delivers care.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos today (Friday 22), NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens will launch the first wave of NHS Innovation ‘Test Beds‘.

These collaborations between the NHS and innovators – including Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), IBM and Philips – aim to harness technology to address some of the most complex issues facing patients and the health service.

Frontline health and care workers in seven areas will pioneer and evaluate the use of novel combinations of interconnected devices such as wearable monitors, data analysis and ways of working which will help patients stay well and monitor their conditions themselves at home.

Successful innovations will then be available for other parts of the country to adopt and adapt to the particular needs of their local populations.

For example, the plans being announced today include:

  • Patients with diabetes in the West of England being equipped with remote monitoring and coaching technology to allow them to better self-manage their condition;
  • Older patients in Rochdale who are most at risk of critical health events being identified using data analysis, and supported to use telecare and remote devices in their homes so that their doctors can provide timely and tailored help as soon as they need it, and;
  • People in Birmingham at risk of serious mental illness will be able to make use of technology and apps to manage their condition, linked to a hub which can despatch the right specialist staff at the right time to help if a crisis looks likely.

Addressing the 46th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, which is themed ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, Simon Stevens is expected to say: “Over the next decade major health gains won’t just come from a few ‘miracle cures’, but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications, and AI computing.

“Our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service.”

A joint programme between NHS England, the Office for Life Science, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, NHS Test Beds will bring together local health bodies including CCGs, hospital trusts, primary and community care providers with a wide range of innovators from home and abroad.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman MP said: ” We are determined to ensure the NHS can remain a pioneer of new treatments and models of care so that UK patients will be amongst the first in the world to benefit from these hugely exciting medical advances, made possible by the life sciences industry in partnership with the NHS.

“Not only does it demonstrate the NHS’s attractiveness as a place to test and develop revolutionary new products, it is also another important step towards creating a truly twenty-first century NHS”.

Each Test Bed will use a different combination of innovations, from both large and small organisations, to address a locally-identified clinical challenge.

These challenges include supporting people with diabetes and other long term conditions to manage their care better; supporting older people to stay independent at home; better support for people at risk of mental health crisis, and; improving how we predict care needs for both individuals and local populations.

The changes made will be rigorously evaluated, with the aim to provide evidence which will give more areas the confidence to adopt the innovations over the coming years.

The first wave of Test Beds includes five health and care Test Beds and two ‘Internet of Things’ Test Beds. The sites will be spread across different areas of England, including the West of England, Surrey, Sheffield and Birmingham.

The five NHS Test Beds chosen are:

  • Care City Health and Care Test Bed – which will promote healthy ageing across a million-strong population in North East London.  Bringing together UCLPartners, Health Analytics, Orion Health and 9 other innovators, the partnership will test and evaluate combinations of innovative technologies that can help patients to manage their own health conditions and to remain as independent as possible, supported by carers who will receive the information and connections they need coordinate care. For example, this will include an online tool for those with dementia, a social network app which offers peer-to-peer support safely online with guidance from credible organisations and institutions, and a device which assesses falls risk and mobility.
  • Long Term Conditions Early Intervention Programme – which will see the NHS in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale working with Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), MSD (a trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Kenilworth, NJ, USA), Health E Research and the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network to help healthcare professionals better identify and support patients at risk of long term conditions using the most advanced new predictive techniques. This will involve analysing trends and patterns related to conditions like heart failure and some lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease to identify patients who would most benefit from tele-health, tele-care and tele-medicine technology. These patients will benefit from a more personalised service, in particular being proactively offered additional physician support and access to technology.
  • Lancashire and Cumbria Innovation Alliance (LCIA) Test Bed – which will see the NHS, including two New Care Model Vanguard sites, partner with Philips and a number of SMEs and social enterprises to support the frail elderly and people with long term conditions to remain well outside of hospital and avoid unnecessary admissions.  They will test new approaches to identifying patients that can benefit from additional support and help them to self-care at home through improved education and telehealth technologies.
  • Perfect Patient Pathway Test Bed – aims to create the ‘perfect patient pathway’ to bring substantial benefits for patients in the Sheffield City Region suffering from long term conditions, such as diabetes, mental health problems, respiratory disease, hypertension and other chronic conditions. The Test Bed will keep patients with long term conditions well, independent and avoiding crisis points which often result in hospital admission, intensive rehabilitation and a high level of social care support. Working in partnership with GE Finnamore, IBM and 13 smaller innovators, the local health and care system will set up an integrated intelligence centre to help get people the help they need, when they need it most.
  • Integrated Mental Health Urgent Care Test Bed – which will see Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust partner with Accenture to offer more proactive support for people at risk of mental health crisis. Patients across Birmingham and Solihull will have access to digital tools such as online support, risk assessments and crisis intervention plans that will enable care professionals to better support patients to manage their conditions in the community.  In addition the Test Bed will use predictive analytics technology to better identify those at risk of crisis, enabling mobile crisis workers and tele-triage workers to provide prevention support before a crisis arises.

The two Internet of Things (IoT) Test Beds are:

  • Diabetes Digital Coach – a project led by the West of England AHSN in partnership with Diabetes UK and technology companies including Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Bringing together mobile health self-management tools (wearable sensors and supporting software) with the latest developments in connecting monitoring devices (Internet of Things), the Test Bed will enable people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes to ‘do the right thing at the right time’ to self-manage their condition. It will also encourage more timely and appropriate interventions from peers, healthcare professionals, carers and social networks.
  • Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) – a collaboration between Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and an array of health technology providers which will help people with dementia to live in their own homes for longer. Individuals and their carers will be provided with sensors, wearables, monitors and other devices, which will combine into an ‘Internet of Things’ to monitor their health at home. This will empower people to take more control over their own health and wellbeing, as well as enabling health and social care staff to deliver more responsive and effective services.

The IoT Test Beds are part of IoTUK, an integrated £40 million, three-year Government programme that seeks to advance the UK’s global leadership in IoT and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

Neil Mesher, Managing Director of Philips UK and Ireland, said: “Philips is proud to be involved in this pioneering new project. We believe this type of collaborative approach between industry and health & care providers is an excellent opportunity to improve patient outcomes whilst at the same time reducing the total cost of care. Supporting patients to meet their own individual goals is an objective Philips are delighted to be involved with.”

Andy Conrad, Chief Executive Officer of Verily, said: “This partnership between the NHS, MSD and Verily will determine if data analysis technology can help the NHS better prevent, detect and manage disease. Our hope is to help create a more preventative model for managing long term conditions like heart failure and lung disease.”

Test Beds have been developing their proposals over the last nine months with support from the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

The successful projects were chosen on their ability to address local clinical challenges through innovation, at a large scale, and on the strength and commitment of their local leadership to be able to change established ways of working.

They were also required to demonstrate their ability to evaluate and collect evidence of the improvements made for patients, which can then be used to support the spread of successful innovations to other areas.

Given an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate their solutions at large scale on a global stage, it is envisaged that successful Test Bed partners will deliver wider financial benefits to the NHS and the UK economy as they are rolled out in other areas at home and abroad.


  1. Liming Chen says:

    Hello there,

    I am an academic and would like to explore collaboration opportunities with these test beds projects. Can you please let me know the project websites and/or contact person(s) for each of these test beds, in particular, the two IoT test beds, or let me know where I can find such information?

    Best regards


  2. Nichola Chater says:

    We are looking at developing and piloting an electronic patient held ‘summary’ focused on the patients perspective, of information that would help them manage a long term neurological/neuromuscular condition. The system could allow care/service providers (from different sectors) to contribute/view data, and remote access/monitoring; Can you advise of of where and how we might apply for funding for development and pilot costs? Thank you.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Nicola,
      The NHS England Innovation Team will be able to help signpost you to other programmes and competitions that may be of interest. Please email with details of your innovation for more information.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  3. Sara Faithfull says:

    This is a great opportunity for health services to move beyond small incremental change In the health of individuals using technology but to tackle such big challenges. We are often scared of change and health care professionals are criticised for being slow to adopt. However new kit or interventions are sometimes not always user friendly or intuitive for patients and staff. technology needs to be subtle and aesthetic for people to be happy to use. Providing test beds to work out how these technologies work in routine care and in peoples homes is essential for them to be implemented wide scale. These grants tackle difficult issues that are huge challenges for the future not only for patients, families and carers but also for society. I applaud the opportunities given by these grants to innovate.

  4. Professor John G Burgoyne says:

    is this something I can apply for as a researcher?

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Professor Burgoyne,
      Researchers are eligible to participate in a Test Bed partnership to help them evaluate their programmes. Unfortunately, the applications to be part of this round of test beds are now closed.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  5. Rally Round says:

    The move towards technology solutions is to be commended but how can we ensure smaller companies already doing great work, with excellent products can be involved and not just eclipsed by the ‘big boys’?
    We have particularly innovative technology supporting people to live independently at home and supporting their carers to make caring role more sustainable (large numbers of unnecessary hospital admissions can be linked to carer breakdown). We would very much like to get involved in this work.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Sir/Madam,
      You’re absolutely right that there are lots of valuable innovations out there being marketed by small and start-up businesses, as well as other kinds of organisations. From the outset, this programme has been designed to harness creativity, inventiveness and vision, whether that’s from industry (whether small, medium or large, new or established businesses), the voluntary sector, or from within the NHS itself. As a result, many of the test beds have partnered with a broad range of these organisations – more details on each is available here []. Applications for this round of Test Beds have now closed, but we will be providing updates on their progress and any future rounds on our webpage.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  6. Christine Edler says:

    Frontline health and care workers in seven areas will pioneer and evaluate the use of novel combinations of interconnected devices such as wearable monitors, data analysis and ways of working which will help patients stay well and monitor their conditions themselves at home.

    Sally Beckley and I would intersted in exploring this for children do you have a contact that you can link us to? We both work with childrne with Continuing care needs.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Christine,
      For the moment this programme is limited to the seven areas and projects named above, but in the meantime we would encourage all health and care organisations to look at how this kind of innovation can help them deliver better outcomes. Over time we will be posting updates of how each test bed are getting on which we hope will give other areas the confidence to do similar things to meet their own local challenges.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  7. Dr G Kunigiri says:

    Technology has a significant role in health care. I would be particularly interested in Birmingham trial in patients with severe mental illness.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Dr Kunigiri,
      Further information on all the test beds is available here [] or directly from the organisations involved.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  8. Sandra Wilks says:

    Innovation is always most welcome however, where Long Term Conditions are concerned – Prosthetic/Orthotic & Mobility (Wheelchairs, Postural Seating etc.etc.) Services never seem to be consulted or taken into consideration?

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Sandra,
      A key premise of the Test Beds is that they are testing ‘combinatorial’ innovations – not just innovative technologies and products, but also innovations in how services are delivered. The Test Beds will be taking a whole system approach and looking at the changes that need to happen across patient pathways to improve outcomes for patients.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  9. anna watkins says:

    In view of the many independent scientific studies highlighting the dangers of wireless emf, this development would hardly be promoting well-being!

  10. Kevin says:

    This is good news. Good on the NHS to pull this together. Will these be registered as clinical trials? Where can one find more study design details?

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Kevin,
      These will be tests in real world settings rather than clinical trials and they will be rigorously evaluated, including on bespoke metrics where appropriate. Further information on this process will be published as part of the National Support Package shortly.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  11. David elson says:

    I wish to take part of the tests

  12. Deb Troops says:

    Providing care and support that is appropriate to a specific long term condition should be the place to start and that in the case of neuro still has an awful long way to go.

  13. Sylvan Moir says:

    This will, as sure as night follows day, turn hospitals into places of torture for many patients.
    Many papers already implicate man-made microwaves in the development of dementia and alzheimers, disease, both of which are sky-rocketing at the same time that microwave-bombardment has exploded everywhere.
    There is not an insurance company on the face of the planet which will ensure for risks associated with mobille ‘phones or other microwave-devices.
    This plan is pure madness, certifiably crazy .

  14. Sheena Foster says:

    While the use of technology is seen as the way forward in monitoring patients with a mental illness the people who possibly need the most support on discharge are forensic patients. The problem here is that the use of technology is highly restricted in Secure services so that some patients have not even seen a smart phone and have little understanding of using up to date technology.
    Is it not time to look at this so that forensic patients can receive such benefits?

  15. Ivan says:

    The brain is a precious organ, which needs to be looked after. Unfortunately, new wireless technologies use electro-magnetic fields, which are now being proven to adversely effect the brain and its function. Scientists all around the world are in agreement that the World Health Organization should recommend that people reduce/avoid all EMF exposure to protect their health. Scientific papers have been written documenting the evidence that they know, have found, and can prove. It’s fact.
    So go ‘wired’ not ‘wireless’

  16. Diana Boughton says:

    Why is our healthcare provider aiming to subject ill people to a continous bombardment of microwave radiation from wireless devices?

  17. maurice hoffman says:

    what arrangements are being made for patient involvement and co-production? will patients be included in the governance arrangements?

    an active patient champion.

    • NHS England says:

      Dear Maurice
      The point of this programme is to establish what works and in large part this is dependent on the solutions put forward being ones that patients support and can make use of. Each test bed will have their own arrangements, but engagement with patients has been key to how local NHS leaders have identified the problems they want to solve and how they go about doing so, and in many test beds patients have been involved in selecting the technologies they think could be most beneficial.
      Kind regards,
      NHS England

  18. Dr Jean Harris Hendriks F R C Psych. says:

    Particularly interested in the West of England project Diabetes digital coach. Please keep me informed.

  19. Dr Abdul Jaleel says:

    Congratulations NHS England and its allies In the EU.
    Exciting innovations for patients, clinicians and nation states.
    Some of us may not be around long enough to benefit from some of these revolutionary measures but that is not an argument for decelerating Stevens’NHS England momentum.