The revived Code4Health programme has finally launched, with the first pilot courses for clinicians taking place this month.

NHS England says it is also looking for commercial and academic organisations to apply to become accredited Code4Health course providers as it expands the programme.

Last March, EHI reported that Code4Health was being given a new lease of life after news on the initiative to teach 50,000 clinicians to code dried up in the latter half of 2013.

At the time, NHS England’s head of business systems Richard Jefferson said he would be heading up Code4Health, running alongside its open source programme, with plans to redefine and potentially broaden its objectives.

At the launch of the programme at London’s eHealth Week yesterday, Jefferson said Code4Health has expanded beyond its initial goal of teaching clinicians to code, into a wider focus on narrowing the gap between clinicians and IT departments.

“It’s not just about clinical technologists wanting to code and become the developers of the future. [IT staff] need to understand exactly what it is to be a clinician and what that means, in the same way that we want clinicians to be part of the technological side.”

Jefferson said the Code4Health courses, starting with sessions on ‘app-building in a day’ and ‘data in a day’, will help clinicians better understand the work that is required to design services for them.

“The fundamental point of the ‘app in a day’ course is how you as a clinician understand what it takes to build an app that services the needs of you, or your patients.”

He said the Code4Health platform, based on the HANDI Health Open Platform Demonstrator which was developed to provide a testing and development environment to build apps, will act as a “virtual sandpit” and allowing users to experiment with different open source electronic health records, knowledge repositories and APIs.

The programme team will also develop a community of practice forum for participants to discuss the lessons from their courses and collaborate on further work.

“What we don’t want to do is find that people just disappear and go back to their day jobs. We want people to get involved in the community and take it forward, and give them the opportunity to get involved in building apps and services that will make a difference to their day job.”

Peter Coates, NHS England’s open source programme manager, said 13 courses will be running over March and April, with over 100 clinicians set to take part.

Participants will receive 12 months of support from Code4Health so they can develop their ideas, he said.

Jefferson said there are also plans to launch three to five Code4Health competitions in next three months with a “small amount” of prize money and technical support to further develop winning entries.

Coates said both commercial organisations and academic organisations can apply to become accredited Code4Health course providers.

When announced by NHS England’s director of patients and information Tim Kelsey, the Code4Health programme was going to be based on the US organisation ‘Code for America’, created to teach local government workers how to create apps and services using open source data.