NHS trusts can claim funding from the ‘Safer Hospitals, Safer Wards: Technology Fund’ for money spent on their projects since April last year.

As the first round of money from the fund is being released and trusts are signing their memorandums of understanding, EHI can reveal that some will be using the fund to claim back for costs already incurred.

More than 230 projects worth around £220m have been approved by NHS England in the first round of the technology fund and £90m of this money must be spent in this financial year.

Both trusts and suppliers had expressed concerned about the tight timescales involved in spending the money by the end of March when it is only being released in February.

However, NHS England’s head of technology and strategy Paul Rice has confirmed to EHI that as long as the money has been spent on the approved project in this financial year, successful trusts can claim it back within the rules of the capital funding.

“All reasonable project costs can be capitalised within the rules of PDC  in the financial year that they have been incurred – physical assets, licences, people who are delivering enabling project management, business process redesign etc,” he said.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded funding to continue its e-prescribing roll-out. Consultant pharmacist Steve Bazire told EHI the ability to claim money back is good news for his trust.

“This works for us because we have already spent that amount this financial year and can quite appropriately claim it.”

Bazire added that this means the trust can spend the money on rolling out the e-prescribing system further.

When the tech fund opened for bids in July last year, NHS England said the fund, “confirms NHS England’s commitment to make access to the technology market place easier for industry, especially small and medium enterprises, to maximise innovation and economic growth.”

An industry source, who asked to remain anonymous, told EHI that being allowed to claim for money already been spent undermines trusts and suppliers that are working hard to meet the March deadline.

“The purpose of the tech fund is to kick start new projects and provide real impetus into the ‘paper free’ programme and we are working flat out to deliver new projects in time to meet the March deadline,” he said.

“However using any of the money to pay for projects for which the funds had already been committed, or worse paid for, would undermine the entire scheme;  it would be tragic.”

Head of EHI Intelligence Karl Grundy said that if the retrospective money is “earmarked” for future IT investment, he does not see a problem with it.

“If, however, the money spent is then redistributed into non-IT spend, it is very disappointing, especially for trusts and suppliers hoping the tech fund money would be a catalyst for new innovation and effective use of IT to enable improved clinical and patient outcomes by enabling new ways of working,” Grundy said.