The £100m Nursing Technology Fund is open for bids from today, NHS England has announced.
The fund, which is open to all open to all NHS trusts and foundation trusts, was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in October last year.
EHI reported earlier this year that the fund was due to open for bids in October, but it was subject to delays in getting sign-off from Treasury.
The £100m fund will be split, with £30m for projects which can be delivered in the 2013-14 financial year, and the remaining £70m available as a second round of funding for the 2014-15 financial year.
Trusts will have a limited amount of time to get their applications in as the deadline for the first round of applications is 15 January 2014 and decisions on who will receive funding will be made in February.
NHS England says applications must demonstrate that funding will be used to buy technology that nursing staff and midwives will see the practical benefit of using and that will ultimately benefit patient care.
It will fund mobile and digital technology to allow nurses, midwives and care staff to work more flexibly and effectively, helping them do their jobs better, increase patient safety, create a better patient experience and reduce paperwork.
“Technology is a tool that if embraced and used in the right way, allows healthcare professionals to work differently and more effectively so they can focus on what they do best – providing compassionate, high quality care for patients,” said chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings.
“Digital pens can reduce the burden of paperwork and mobile technology, such as tablets or notebooks, can provide access to up to date information to enable community healthcare staff to deliver safe, effective care and spend more time with patients with all the relevant information to hand."
A guidance document on the fund, published by NHS England, says each NHS organisation can apply for funding for a maximum of three projects in the 2013-14 financial year and three projects in the next.
“It is recognised that timescales are tight for the first round of applications for [financial year 2013-14] funding, both in terms of completing the application, and then if successful, in spending the funds before the end of the financial year,” it says.
In the first round, three types of technology have been selected, “because the benefits of these systems are well understood, there is experience in implementation and the potential time and cost savings to be gained are evidence based.”
These are: digital pens; mobile technology; and systems for the collection and logging of vital signs and essential clinical information, which enable uploading to digital care records.
Trusts applying for the fund will need to already have a “degree of momentum” behind the project to be able to fulfil criteria of spending the funds by the end of the financial year.
“Funds requested must be for hardware and associated software – for example, operating systems or extending the licensing of core clinical systems to mobile devices.
"Funding should not be used for infrastructure development (including wireless infrastructure), nor for bespoke single instance application development,” the document says.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt commented: “Nurses and midwives chose their profession because they wanted to spend time caring for patients, not filling out paperwork. New technology can make that happen.
"It’s better for patients too, who will get swifter information, safer care and more face-to-face time with NHS staff.”
Any NHS trust providing hospital, community, mental health and ambulance services can apply for funding.