NHS England, Public Health England and Diabetes UK have teamed up with leading companies from the tech sector to test new digital approaches to fighting type II diabetes.

A pilot project, due to roll out this month, will see five companies and eight areas of the country trial a range of apps, gadgets, wristbands and other innovative digital products, with the overall aim of bringing down blood sugar levels and thus reducing the risk of developing the condition.

The project will open up access to health coaches and online support groups, as well as set and monitor goals electronically. Some patients will also receive wearable technology for monitoring activity and receiving motivational messages and prompts, which is being made available on the NHS for the first time, according to NHS England.

Heathier You: The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme was launched last year to help support people at high risk of developing type II diabetes, with face-to-face, tailored, personalised help including education on lifestyle choices, advice on how to reduce weight and bespoke physical activity programmes.

This new pilot offers similar support, assistance and guidance, but through the use of the new digital interventions. Patients will be recruited over a six-month period and will be given access to digital products for up to 12 months.

The technology being evaluated includes: Hitachi’s Smart Digital Diabetes Prevention solution, which offers access to an online portal for self assessment and management and a professional health advisor for advice and coaching; Buddi Nujjer, a wristband that monitors user activity, sleep patterns and eating frequency, paired with a smartphone application with access to 22 educational sessions targeting diet, physical activity and mental resilience; and Oviva - an eight-week intensive lifestyle intervention with an experienced dietitian providing personalised advice and support via a smartphone app and phone calls, supported by videos and podcasts.

Also on trial is Liva Healthcare’s digital health platform for pre-diabetic patients offering dedicated coach for 12 months to help and assist them in achieving a healthier lifestyle. The digital behaviour change programme starts out with a personal face-to-face meeting between patient and coach, with subsequent digital personal coaching sessions throughout the year to help drive lasting lifestyle change.

Rune Bech, co-founder at Liva Healthcare, said: “It has been clinically proven in our native Denmark that lifestyle intervention can roll-back chronic diseases, such as type II diabetes. In some instances, patients will come off their medication entirely.

“The NHS is extremely forward thinking in pioneering this programme, the largest of its kind. Digital lifestyle intervention is a highly cost effective and manageable way for those at risk of Type 2 diabetes to roll back their symptoms.”

“So much else in our lives is now about online social connection and support, and that now needs to be true too for the modern NHS. This new programme is the latest example of how the NHS is now getting practical and getting serious about new ways of supporting people stay healthy,” noted NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens, commenting on the programme.

Duncan Selbie, chief executive at Public Health England, said the project “breaks new ground to help those at risk of type II diabetes quite literally take their health into their own hands. Many of us use on-the-go digital technology every day and this is a logical next step in diabetes prevention.”

By April the diabetes prevention programme will have been rolled out to the whole England. “Through this initiative, we have the potential to establish the effectiveness of digital interventions to do the same, so that the reach of the programme will be even greater,” added Professor Jonathan Valabhji, national clinical director for obesity and diabetes.