Seven Integrated Care Systems have partnered with ORCHA to provide access to quality-assessed digital tools in the south west.

The new partnership between the integrated care systems (ICS) and the app evaluation company will see 5.6million people across the south west gain access to a high quality digital health library.

The Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Apps (ORCHA) has already created an app library for Our Dorset, a collaboration between several health and care organisations in the region. Health and care staff in the region have used the service to recommend more than 2,200 apps to patients and service users, with a notable focus on mental health, dementia, diabetes and cancer support.

Following this ORCHA has now expanded the library to encompass the entire region and its 5.6m population. The six additional ICSs joining the service are: Somerset, Gloucestershire, Devon, Cornwall/Kernow, BSW (Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire) and BNSSG (Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire).

Crystal Dennis, interim lead for public facing digital health services, Our Dorset Digital, said: “After transformation boards learned of what had been achieved in Dorset, everyone was unanimous in the view that it was a no-brainer to roll out ORCHA across the seven ICS organisations.

“For reasons of safety, practicality and effectiveness, it’s a foundation platform that every part of the NHS and healthcare professionals should have access to.”

Each ICS will have it own app library filled with hundreds of highly rated health apps to help address a myriad of medical and lifestyle issues. Two universal key areas of focus are to be mental health support and weight management, though each ICS will have slightly different objectives and content.

Dhana Lamér, digital transformation programme manager for South West, NHS England & NHS Improvement, said: “Weight management, in particular, is an issue in our region, as in every other region, as obesity can lead to type two diabetes.

“Our NHS clinicians will always support people on their weight loss journeys, but giving people access to top quality digital tools will help them manage their health better on a day-to-day basis. Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.”

The use of a combined approach will also deliver cost savings of around 30%, according to ORCHA.

Liz Ashall-Payne, founding CEO or ORCHA, said: “Partnership working in this way across several ICSs makes sense economically but also ensures populations receive top quality digital health with consistent presentation and messaging. With this fantastic spirit of co-operation and the opportunity for all the ICSs to share experiences, we are confident we can replicate the success of Our Dorset across the entire South West region, with millions benefitting from access to brilliant health apps.”

The NHS long term plan calls for digital tools to be used alongside face-to-face healthcare to help empower patients take charge of their own health and also to reduce NHS spending. A poll from ORCHA has already revealed the nation’s growing appetite for digital health tools.