A flagship NHS technology fund has been slashed from £240m to just £43m after ministers raided it to bolster a separate fund to help hospitals struggling with winter pressures.

NHS England has announced the £43m of funding from the integrated digital care fund will now be allocated as £20m in 2014-15 and £23m in 2015-16.

Forty-eight successful applications have secured funding. Bids came from a mixture of NHS organisations and local authorities.

Beverley Bryant

Beverley Bryant said NHS England ‘remains committed’ to help digitise patient information

HSJ exclusively revealed last month that ministers had raided the fund to bolster the Department of Health’s £700m winter pressures fund, but the depth of the cut has not been known until now.

The depth of the cut appears greater than had been anticipated by senior NHS figures familiar with negotiations. Last month one senior source told HSJ they expected “at least half of the money” to be cut.

An announcement on the integrated digital care technology fund had been scheduled for autumn last year but the government’s decision to raid the fund meant it was delayed.  

Numerous NHS IT directors have told HSJ that projects have already been cancelled or scaled back because of the uncertainty.

HSJ has been told by a number of well placed NHS sources that the decision to raid the fund to bolster the £700m winter pressures fund was taken by the Treasury.   

The raid follows health secretary Jeremy Hunt announcing in November that an extra £300m would be added to the winter pressures fund, which was originally worth £400m. All the winter pressures funding has been allocated.

This is the third time that money originally set aside for technology projects has been cut or left unallocated. Around £60m of a previous £260m tranche of technology funding was clawed back by the DH, while £35m of the £100m nursing technology fund was also not allocated.

HSJ understands that the £35m of the nursing technology fund which has not been allocated has also been subsumed into the winter pressures fund.

Two years ago Mr Hunt outlined an ambition for the NHS to be paperless by 2018. Sources contacted by HSJ said the funding reallocations dealt a significant blow to what was already a highly ambitious target.

NHS England’s director of strategic systems and technology Beverley Bryant said: “We remain committed to helping digitise and integrate patient information across health and care. 

“The latest round of funding will support doctors, nurses and care staff to move from paper based clinical records to integrated digital care records, making information sharing easier and ensuring patients only tell their story once. More funding will follow next year and subsequently.”

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