NHS Direct: Digital Television Service

House of Lords written question – answered on 16th July 2003.

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Photo of Lord Colwyn Lord Colwyn Conservative

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What consultations have taken place with primary care trusts, voluntary-aided organisations and charities, following the closure of the bidding on the contract for digital television access to NHS Direct, to ensure best value, best practice and that the potential of emerging technology is exploited for real operational use.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

As part of a programme to expand the range of services offered by NHS Direct, work has begun to develop and run an NHS Direct information service across all digital TV platforms in England. This service will complement the existing NHS Direct services accessed via the telephone, the Internet and at electronic information points. The development of the service by the Department of Health follows a series of successful pilot projects conducted during 2001–02, which explored possible health applications of digital interactive television. The NHS Direct digital TV service, which will be launched in 2004, will provide information on health conditions and treatments, healthy living, medicines, health advice for travellers, health and safety advice and details of local NHS services, including performance information.

Reports on the independent evaluation (by City University & Sheffield University) of the Department of Health's pilot projects exploring possible health applications of digital interactive television (a summary and a full report) are now available at: http://www.soi.city.ac.uk/organisation/is/research/dhrg/reports/index.html.

The current focus of our work on this project is to identify and select, through a competitive public procurement exercise, a commercial partner with whom the department will work to develop and run the NHS Direct information service. As part of this procurement exercise, potential partners are required to demonstrate how they would provide a service which meets our objectives of extending the reach of NHS Direct services, improving the speed and convenience for those accessing health information and information on the NHS and encouraging appropriate self-care. This procurement process is ongoing. We expect to be able to announce the award of a contract in October 2003.

Following the selection of a commercial partner to develop and run the service, we will be consulting widely on the content of the service—with patient groups and their representatives, with the NHS and local authorities, with agencies such as the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive and with groups and agencies with interests and experience in providing services to those with hearing and sight disabilities. We have already had discussions with, for example, the Deaf Broadcasting Council.

As with the pilot projects, the service will have a quality assurance process to ensure the quality of the information seen on the TV screen and will be independently evaluated to ensure that lessons are learned and incorporated into the development of the service.

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