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National tech chiefs love to set out the vision for how digital transformation will help solve many of the NHS’s problems, but there is always one question that follows.

How much money is needed to deliver the vision?

Unfortunately, to meet the increased costs for staff pay and inflation, money has to be diverted from other budgets – and tech is one of them.

NHS England’s tech budget is now estimated to be worth less than £1bn, with two years still to go before the next Spending Review – HSJ has learned.

That’s less than half the £2.1bn which was allocated in the 2021 Autumn Spending Review. Yes, some of the money has been spent – but some of the money has also gone to other areas of the NHS’s increasingly strained budget.

The cuts will make it harder for NHSE to deliver elements of its tech vision, but chiefs are fighting to protect their budget for the core targets.

These include the commitment to roll out electronic patient records across all NHS trusts, but HSJ understands there may not be enough money centrally to deliver this in full.

Financially, a tough two years lie ahead for the NHS tech landscape.

NHS’s role in discharge delays

Shortages in social care are often blamed for the high number of delayed discharges from hospital.

But new data obtained by HSJ reveal that more than a third of delayed discharges are associated with NHS factors.

The most common reason for delayed discharges is waits for community rehabilitation beds. Other “NHS reasons” include waits for medical decisions or interventions, and decisions from therapists on rehabilitation needs – though these were much less prominent.

Common “social care” or “local authority” related reasons include waits for care at home or for residential or nursing home beds.

Experts have said the urgent care recovery funding announced by the government has come too late for the current winter, and criticised the government’s “short-termist” approach to tackling the problem.

Also on today

With accident and emergency performance seemingly improving from its December lows, this week’s Health Check podcast discusses the new target that health systems will be working towards, and in news we report that a tribunal has been urged to throw out claims of race and sex discrimination by an NHSE director against his employer and its former chief people officer.