How do we improve access to information for relatives of patients whilst their loved ones are in hospital and reduce the demand on staff time?

Challenge Background

When a family member is an inpatient in a hospital setting, it can be a challenging time for relatives who are concerned and want timely information on their loved one’s condition. This is especially the case for urgent admissions or ones where the patient’s diagnosis, condition or prognosis are unclear. Even when patients are admitted electively, family still want to receive updates but do not always need to speak to someone.

Restrictions to visiting during the Pandemic may have eased, but even pre-pandemic, the challenges getting through to wards and departments by phone calls was and still is the biggest dissatisfaction raised by relatives to our Patient Experience Team.

Relatives suffer stress at not knowing what is going on and patients suffer as they worry about their family and whether they know what is required of them such as discharge arrangements. This situation particularly affects those patients who may not have or be able to use their own phones or who have cognitive limitations such as dementia or mental health needs.

Staff cover great distances to answer telephones which often ring off or waste time tracking down someone who can speak about a patient authoritatively, all whilst neglecting their own patients’ care. Removal and replacement of protective clothing and handwashing to answer the phone adds additional burden. Furthermore, due to redeployment, staff are often working with teams they don’t know making good communication more difficult. Add to that the exhaustion of staff and the result is an environment of inadequate communication.

A survey of nurses working in acute hospitals by the Royal Voluntary Service charity identified that the two fifths of patients without visitors, require additional support from the nursing team. Lack of visitors was felt by nurses to have a detrimental effect on patients’ health and speed of recovery in a number of ways. These include; they are less likely to be mobile (43%), less likely to be stimulated through conversation (56%) and less likely to follow medical advice. A considerable number, 37%, were more likely to have a longer stay in hospital.

The current system of telephoning is not effective. Relatives can be on hold in some cases for hours before they get an answer and then do not necessarily get any information that is relevant to the patient’s current condition. Reportedly they don’t always get an answer or have calls returned when they have got through but have been advised someone else needs call them back.


Challenge Details

We are looking to identify, develop and demonstrate innovative solutions that will:

  • Improve communication between relatives and patient case holder
  • Reduce worry for patients
  • Involve patients in updates with family where possible
  • Reduce frustration and stress of relatives
  • Improve the carer experience
  • Reduce detrimental effects of not seeing loved ones and impacting speed of recovery.
  • Improve the patient experience
  • Better communicate discharge arrangements
  • Better inform more than a single nominated family member
  • Reduce demand on clinical time responding to patient update requests.
  • Reduce distraction from patient care leading to lack of dignity and potential errors
  • Reduce stress on healthcare staff by reducing demand for communication
  • Maintain privacy and confidentiality through avoidance of patient information being spoken out loud
  • Provide communication solutions that are accessible and inclusive
  • Be affordable and sustainable to the NHS and be of low or no cost to the patient/relatives/carers and others that may be involved in the patient’s care
  • Meet Welsh Language Standards and potentially have multi-lingual capability.


Out of Scope

We are not looking to replace the current telephony systems, although solutions that integrate with or complement the current NHS telephony systems will be considered.


Challenge Phases Structure:

Phase 1: Feasibility – We are looking to fund up to 5 projects up to a value of up to £30,000 each (inclusive of VAT) for Phase 1.

Note: Only projects successful at phase 1 will be eligible to apply to subsequent phases. Additional phases will be dependent upon funding allocation.

Phase 2: Development – We expect to fund up to 3 projects of the most successful phase 1 projects up to a value of *£60,000 each (inclusive of VAT).

*Dependent upon funding allocation.

Please note any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject of a separate, possible competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution although we may choose to investigate and explore innovative procurement routes as part of this challenge.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations between the phases
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach
  • fund a Phase 3 to allow thorough testing of the developed solutions.

Key Dates table:

Phase 1 ActivityKey Dates **subject to change **
Open Date – Phase 116/11/2022
Briefing event30/11/2022
Close Date12 noon 14/12/2022
Meet and Greet with Suppliersw/c 19/12/2022
Applicants notifiedw/c 19/12/2022
Phase 1 Contracts awardedw/c 19/12/2022
FeedbackEarly January 2023
Projects CommenceEarly January 2023
Projects Complete31/03/2023
Phase 2 ActivityKey Dates  **subject to change **
Phase 2 applications to be reviewed and decision on company/companies to take forward31/03/2023
Feedback to unsuccessful applicantsw/c 03/04/2023
Contracts signed and commencementw/c 03/04/2023
Project closureMarch 2024


Briefing Event

Please follow the link below and register your interest for the virtual Briefing Event held on 30 November 2022 at 1pm:

SBRI Health Programme 2022-2024 – Briefing Event


Phase 2 Notice

Please note if you are successful in Phase 1 and go through to Phase 2, you will need to provide a commercialisation plan/strategy as part of your contractual deliverables. Any digital solutions will be required to meet NHS Wales ISO standards and Cyber Essentials Plus.


Further information

For more information on this competition, visit: Simply Do

For any enquiries about this competition e-mail:


This competition has ended.