NHS England is making a dynamic purchasing system (DPS) its approved procurement route for trusts buying equipment and systems to run virtual wards and remote monitoring programmes.

NHS England has nominated the Spark DPS system, run by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), as its approved means for trusts and integrated care systems (ICSs) to source their virtual ward solutions.

The CCS describes Spark as a Technology Innovation Marketplace that can help the government and public sector to access new and emerging technology products. The DPS uses a filter system that helps customers find relevant suppliers.

The filter system includes defined technology areas, developed with customer input, and focuses on emerging technologies predicted to have the largest impact over the next two to five years.

There are eight technology areas the system can filter by: Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, simulated and enhanced environments, engineering/materials science, data, wearables, transport, and security.

Suppliers can apply to join the marketplace at any time and identify their areas of expertise as part of the application process.

A recent CCS webinar said that trusts and ICSs using different means to buy virtual ward systems could risk the loss of NHS England “support”, however it is unclear as to what exactly would happen.

There are currently around 7,000 new virtual ward beds in the NHS, with the UK government planning a 500% expansion of virtual wards so that up to 50,000 patients a month can be treated.

Central funding of £450 million has been allocated to support the virtual ward rollout, which has been divided into two tranches: £200m for 2022-23 and £250m for 2023-24. Next year’s allocation is “match-funding”, which can be sourced as and when trusts and ICSs invest in virtual wards.

If trusts opt for a different procurement route to Spark DPS, this match funding could be at risk. CCS expect to receive a large portion of the funding in spend through Spark as trusts increase efforts to meet the target.

Digital Health News has approached NHS England for comment.