In September 2021, NHS England announced that there would be £700 million in national funding made available through the Targeted Investment Fund, to support schemes that promote recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, as part of its operational planning guidance. Systems were asked to work with NHS England and NHS Improvement regional teams to put together proposals.
The North West received £97.3m of TIF funding and a total of 121 schemes across the North West were approved, including increasing bed numbers, increased ICU capacity, a number of digital schemes and a number of pieces of kit to increase elective activity.
The largest scheme was a £11.6m South Mersey Elective Hub delivered by Wirral University Teaching hospital, which is due to go live in the autumn. It will create two elective theatres as part of the south Mersey elective hub on the Clatterbridge hospital site and will treat an additional 3,000 patients a year. It will create what is referred to as ‘cold site’ capacity, in that the theatres will be built away from the main busy acute hospital at Arrowe Park and provide enhanced infection prevention and control, away from patients who require admission for respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 or flu. The new theatres are aimed at reducing cancellations of surgery on the day, which have resulted from pressures on bed capacity. It will significantly improve patient experience and reduce wasting valuable operating time.
The additional theatres will treat a large number of patients from across the region, including Wirral, who require less complex surgery. It will also reduce the backlog of those patients with less urgent needs, with a focus on patients who have been waiting over 52 weeks for treatment.
Other schemes include funding for a digital solution to waiting list management across Lancashire, which received £297,000 funding. An innovative artificial intelligence service has been developed that allows patients to let their hospital know their current health status.
Chatbot is an automated call system, which guides patients through a series of questions designed by NHS consultants and healthcare experts. This enables patients to let NHS Trusts know if their condition has worsened and possibly, speed up their treatment or if they no longer require treatment.
The pilot saw 2,282 waiting list patients in Morecambe Bay and Preston receive an automated call asking them about their health condition. Three quarters (75 per cent) of patients responded to either the automated call, or a follow-up call from a member of staff. 15 per cent of all patients indicated that they were able to leave the waiting list. Ten per cent of inpatients indicated they required an appointment sooner.
For In 2022/23 the North West has been allocated £210 million over three years and providers are currently working on business cases to secure the funding. These schemes include additional ward capacity, theatre capacity, endoscopy units and elective hubs.