NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have teamed up with a number of healthcare technology companies to try to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes across the country.
A pilot, which is expected to cover more than 5,000 people, will see five technology companies test drive a range of apps and digital tools to help them to improve their health.
Users will be able to access health coaches and online support groups, as well as set and monitor goals electronically. Some patients will also be given wearable technology to help them monitor activity levels and receive motivational messages and prompts — a first for the NHS.
Natasha Jacques, principal pharmacist, specialist services at Heart of England NHS Trust, said: “This approach looks innovative and exciting. The prospect of using technology in particular could be extremely helpful as it is tapping into something that we are using every day.
“It will be important to consider how patients will be signposted and access these new services and how pharmacists could play a part in this. It will also be interesting to see if these interventions translate into better outcomes.”
Patients will be recruited over a six-month period and they will be given access to the digital products for up to 12 months.
The latest initiative follows the NHS Diabetes Programme, Healthier You, launched last year in a bid to support people who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Those referred on to the face-to-face programme get tailored, personalised treatment, including education on lifestyle choices, advice on how to reduce weight through healthier eating and bespoke physical activity programmes.
The hope is that the new technology pilot will offer similar support, assistance and guidance but through the use of the digital interventions.
Launching the initiative, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “So much else in our lives is now about online social connection and support, and that now needs to be true too for the modern NHS. This new programme is the latest example of how the NHS is now getting practical and getting serious about new ways of supporting people to stay healthy.”