The Digitising Social Care programme at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System has been awarded £1.1m from NHS England’s Adult Social Care Technology Fund, allowing it to provide digital solutions to local residents.

The funding is to be provided over 15 months and will allow Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICS to expand existing technologies, as well as introduce new ones. The ICS made a joint application for the funding with the University of Hertfordshire and Health Innovation East. Just three other health and care systems were awarded a share of £3.7m funding.

Patricia Coker, senior responsible officer for the Digitising Social Care (DiSC) programme, said: “The DiSC programme is a fantastic example of collaborative working between the NHS, local authorities and the care sector. Over the past two years, we have helped improve the experience of care for residents and saved valuable time for care staff to enable them to provide more personalised care. Securing this funding is a huge accolade for the team and means that we can continue supporting vulnerable adults for the next two years.”

The two solutions that the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICS will provide are PainChek and Robopets.

PainChek is capable of identifying and managing pain for those who are unable to communicate it verbally. It works by measuring small changes in facial expressions and voice to generate a pain score, guiding carers to providing the right support. The new funding will support around 1,000 residents to be assessed by their care provider.

The end of last year saw Edinburgh Royal Infirmary announced as the first UK hospital to trial the AI-powered pain assessment tool.

Robopets focuses on providing a calming influence, boosting mental health and wellbeing, and delivering greater independence and confidence. The funding will provide around 1,300 care home residents with a robotic companion to provide comfort and combat loneliness.

Both innovations will help to improve wellbeing and quality of life for local residents, while at the same time improving care quality and safety, as staff will gain more time to provide care.

Felicity Cox, chief executive at the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICS, said: “We are extremely proud of the amazing work the DiSC programme has delivered so far to improve the quality of care our local residents receive. The technologies already introduced have been very successful in improving digital communications, monitoring resident health and preventing falls. We look forward to seeing the benefits the new technologies will bring for local residents and care providers.”

A team of researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, supported by the Applied Research Collaboration East of England and The Office of Health Economics, will evaluate the impact of introducing these technologies in different adult social care settings to support older people and their carers.

By gathering evidence as the technologies are implemented the team hopes to understand the acceptability, usability, cost-effectiveness and impact of each scheme to help inform the development of an evidence-based plan for scale and spread across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICS.