AHSN Network has benefited more than 479,000 patients and generated £322.3 million inward investment for UK economy

The innovation delivery arm of the NHS, the AHSN Network, has released its Impact Report 2018-2020. The report highlights outstanding impacts achieved by AHSNs, including the West of England, and evidences how they are driving adoption and spread in healthcare innovation, transforming patient outcomes, enabling efficiencies, saving the NHS money, generating economic growth and attracting millions of pounds of investment for the country’s economy.

The report also details how AHSNs have mobilised quickly to COVID-19 to support the NHS and health and social care response.

National programmes

Commissioned by NHS England, England’s 15 AHSNs delivered seven programmes during 2018-20, developed regionally and selected for national adoption and spread, which are benefiting more than 479,000 patients: Atrial Fibrillation, Emergency Laparotomy, ESCAPE-pain, PINCER, Prevention of Cerebral Palsy in PreTerm Labour (PReCePT), Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) and Transfer of Care Around Medicines (TCAM).

Key national programme findings from the report show that 13,387 fewer patients are at risk from harm from medication errors as a result of PINCER. The Network’s atrial fibrillation work has helped prevent 11,734 strokes and saved 2,933 lives. Whilst 8,472 people with chronic joint pain have participated in ESCAPE-pain courses.

AHSNs also play a key role in supporting the NHS to adopt new, better and more effective technologies through playing a leading role in supporting the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), by operation as the local agencies to drive adoption of Innovation and Technology Payment (ITP) and Rapid Uptake Products (RUPs).

Economic growth

From 2019-2020, the AHSN Network has generated almost £322.3 million inward investment for our nation, and created and / or protected over 1,000 jobs during this time.

The AHSN Network helps mobilise the value that the NHS can add as an economic asset to the UK economy. AHSNs broker access to a range of expert support and services across the health and care sectors that support NHS innovators and companies to realise the commercial and economic potential of their ideas.

The latest round of company surveys conducted by the AHSN Network show remarkable progress in the health innovation sector. Find out more about how the AHSN Network has attracted millions of pounds of investment for the country’s economy.

Patient safety

England’s 15 Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs) have significantly contributed to the NHS Patient Safety Strategy through their work on managing deterioration, maternity and neonatal safety, and adoption and spread programmes.

PSCs play an essential role in identifying and spreading safety improvement programmes (SIPs) to create sustainable and continuous improvement in settings such as maternity units, emergency departments, mental health trusts, GP practices and care homes.

Successes include spreading the National Early Warning Score (NEWS2) to 99% of all acute hospital trusts, a 92% uptake of a discharge care bundle for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more than 120,000 views of a series of training films developed for care home staff.

Review our regional Patient Safety programme here.

COVID-19

To support the COVID-19 response AHSNs pivoted their expertise and resources, highlighting their unique ability to be able to work with regional health systems to spread innovation, whilst collaborating across England to drive rapid transformative change across large geographies.

Key examples of AHSNs responding to the pandemic include; providing expertise to NHS regions, by embedding staff in regional COVID-19 response cells, which was equivalent to 157 full time staff. And working with NHSX and NHS Digital, AHSNs help to drive digitisation of primary care, achieving a near-total uptake of video and online consultations in two months across GP practices in England. We also published a rapid-learning report on our patient safety work, ‘Safer care during COVID-19’.

By autumn 2020, AHSNs were continuing to support the COVID-19 response whilst providing expert input to regional NHS planning around the restoration and recovery of services. Nationally, AHSNs have also been leading the NHS ‘Reset’ campaign with NHS Confederation and the Health Foundation and have been playing a key supporting role in the NHS Beneficial Changes Network, focusing on ‘locking in’ learning from the pandemic.

Find out more about how we are working with health and social care colleagues across our region to keep people safe during and after COVID-19.

Piers Ricketts, Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Eastern AHSN said:

“We are achieving results that make a real difference for patients and service users, as well as healthcare professionals, innovators and NHS organisations. These strong foundations make us ideally placed to help all those involved in improving and innovating health and care to tackle together the challenges that lie ahead.

The AHSNs’ response to COVID-19 has highlighted how our core strengths and ways of working have proved a valued asset to our partners. AHSNs are agile and well connected organisations, and we were able to mobilise and respond to this new crisis almost overnight, providing additional support and brokering relationships across health and care, research and academia, industry and the voluntary sectors.”

New national programmes

From April 2020, AHSNs are working on three new national programmes;

  • Focus ADHD; a number of AHSNs are working with mental health trusts and community paediatric services to improve the assessment process for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) using computer-based tests (measuring attention, impulsivity and activity).
  • Early Intervention Eating Disorders; a number of AHSNs are supporting mental health teams across England to speed up diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in young people aged 16 to 25.
  • Lipid management and FH; AHSNs are scoping a national programme of work around cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention, which is anticipated to start in autumn 2020.

Review our regional work on FOCUS ADHD and Early Intervention Eating Disorders.

AHSNs continue to support national NHS initiatives such as the National Innovation Accelerator (NIA), Small Business Research Initiatives (SBRI) and Clinical Entrepreneurs programme and developing work on new and emerging NHS priorities such as workforce innovation.

Read the full AHSN Network Impact Report 2018-2020.  

Applications for the NHS Innovation Accelerator are now open!

The NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) – an NHS England initiative supported by England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and hosted at UCLPartners – has launched its call for applications representing high impact, evidence-based innovations. Successful applicants will become 2021 NIA Fellows.

The call is open to local, national and international healthcare innovations supported by passionate individuals from any background, including SMEs, clinicians, charity/third sector and academics.

In alignment with the current NHS priorities of COVID-19 Reset and Recovery, innovations put forward this year must address at least one of the following themes:

  • NHS response to COVID-19
  • Mental health
  • Supporting the workforce

The application period is open until 16 October 2020 at midnight.

This list of Frequently Asked Questions explains the NIA in more detail, who can apply, the selection process, what support an NIA Fellow 2021 can expect. We recommend reading this document before applying to the NIA or contacting us about your application.

Interested in applying?

Visit the NIA website to learn more about the application criteria and process, register for informational webinars, and access the online application portal. Webinars will be held on 8, 9, 22 September and 8 October.

Our Business Development team are available to support you and answer any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to contact us, you can email:  innovation@weahsn.net

Read about a local 2020 NIA Fellow

On 5 March 2020, the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) announced 11 high impact innovations joining the national accelerator in 2020, including one developed here in the West of England: The WaterDrop. Read more about The WaterDrop and their journey to becoming an NIA 2020 Fellow.

About the NHS Innovation Accelorator (NIA)

The NIA is an NHS England Initiative highlighted in the NHS Long Term Plan. It accelerates uptake of high impact innovations for patient, population and NHS staff benefit, and providing real time practical insights on spread to inform national strategy.

The NIA supports individuals (‘Fellows’) with a set of values and passion for scaling evidence-based innovation to benefit a wider population, with a commitment to share their learnings.

Since launching in July 2015, the NIA has delivered the following (these stats do not include data from the latest rounds of Fellows, unveiled in March 2020):

  • 2,214 additional NHS sites using NIA innovations
  • £134.8m external funding raised
  • 486 jobs created
  • 113 awards won
  • 45 innovations selling internationally
  • NIA innovations save the health and social care system £38m per annum, according to conservative figures from independent evaluations by York Health Economic Consortium.

Sharing learning from our QI Summer Series

During July and August 2020 the West of England Academy, aided by guest facilitators and speakers, held weekly Quality Improvement (QI) webinars. This season of learning, known as the QI Summer Series, was fully booked with a lengthy waiting list. We are also delighted to say the series received 100% positive feedback from attendees, no mean feat in a world where virtual fatigue is setting in.

Before and during the series our Academy team compiled their thoughts and tips on hosting learning sessions via webinar:  To download the slides as a PowerPoint, please click here

In the coming weeks, our Academy team will also be sharing a Getting Started with QI Guide alongside a blog about their experiences organising and leading the QI Summer Series.

The West of England Academy will be hosting further QI webinars, alongside other virtual events.

You can browse the full range of AHSN events here.

Industry roundtable discussions inform AHSN Network support offer

The AHSN Network, of which the West of England AHSN is a member, is planning a series of “Bridging the gap” events this autumn aimed at providing support, information and advice for innovators across industry. The plans have been developed following a roundtable discussion hosted by the AHSN Network to listen to the experiences and challenges faced by industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The roundtable, titled Lessons learned and lived experiences of industry during the pandemic – how these can help us reset health and care together, was primarily an opportunity to hear from industry. The group discussed how the views and experiences of industry could be taken forward and inform the NHS Reset process as we move into “phase 3” of the response to the pandemic. You can watch a short film summarising the event here.

In essence, the key themes of discussion around actions that need to involve industry insights to support reset included:

  • Effectively embedding new care/service models that have developed during the pandemic
  • Getting rapid evaluation and reimbursement models working more effectively, building on the lessons learned in recent months
  • Managing the consequences of the dramatic decrease in non-COVID care and considering digital interventions that can help manage patient care and outcomes.

Organisations joining the AHSN Network in this virtual roundtable included:

  • the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI),
  • the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association (BIVDA),
  • the Digital Health and Care Alliance (DHACA),
  • the Association of British Health Industries (ABHI),
  • Health Foundation,
  • Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC),
  • NHSX,
  • the Office for Life Sciences (OLS),
  • Spirit Health Group, and
  • the NHS Confederation.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“The NHS has been through the most traumatic period in its history – we have seen some of most awful consequences of this terrible pandemic and some of the most fantastic responses from both health and care staff.

“We have seen innovation and its implementation at an unimaginable speed and scale that’s never been seen before, and we now urgently need to review what has happened and make sure we capture the positive transformations have been made possible by working with industry.

“We are keen for these relationships to continue and for us all to work hard to maintain this momentum.”

Read more about the event here.

This event forms part of the AHSN Network work on supporting the health and care reset, ensuring that we work across both NHS and industry to sustain and maximise on potential advances and transformative ways of working.

HSJ Patient Safety Award Nominations

Two of the West of England AHSN’s member organisations have been nominated across five categories in the 2020 HSJ Patient Safety Awards.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWMHP) received three nominations:

    • Learning Disabilities Initiative of the Year (Improving Patient Safety on the Daisy Unit),
    • Mental Health Initiative of the Year (Reducing Restrictive Practice on a Medium Secure Unit) and
    • Quality Improvement Initiative of the Year (A Collaborative QI approach to improving the quality of care on the Daisy Unit).

Royal United Hospitals (RUH) Bath received two nominations:

      • Deteriorating Patients & Rapid Response Systems Award (Improving Patient Outcomes from Sepsis and Acute Kidney Injury) and
      • Patient Safety Team of the Year (The Sepsis and Kidney Injury Prevention (SKIP) team improving outcomes for patients).

In a news release, Dr Lesley Jordan, RUH Consultant Anaesthetist and Patient Safety Lead at the RUH, said: “We’re very proud to be shortlisted and recognised for our continued work in improving outcomes for patients with sepsis and acute kidney injury.

“Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection, when a person’s immune system overreacts and starts to damage the body’s tissues and organs. Acute kidney injury is when a person’s kidneys suddenly stop working properly, usually as complication of an acute illness, and this can range from minor loss of kidney function to complete kidney failure.

“These can have serious consequences and early detection of both conditions is really important to improve outcomes for patients. We have focused on identifying the conditions as early as possible, introducing process and tools to enable our frontline staff to implement treatment promptly and improve the care we deliver. We have also established a new senior nursing support team, the Sepsis and Kidney Injury Prevention (SKIP) team, to continue to drive this work and support frontline staff.”

Nominees will be presenting their work virtually to a panel of judges to decide the category winner, which will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony in November. You can read the full list of award categories and nominations here.

The West of England AHSN wishes both AWMHP and RUH every success with their nominations.

Quality Improvement in the age of COVID – launching PERIPrem

Noshin Menzies, Senior Project Manager, shares her experiences of launching a Quality Improvement programme during COVID.

If you’d told me 4 months ago we would be where we are today with PERIPRem, I’d have wondered what planet you were from. This exciting, ambitious care bundle, the vision of two extraordinary neonatologists, was going to launch in April and change the way that perinatal care is delivered across the entire South West region. It was a seed reliant on collaboration. However, 2020 had other plans…

The fundamentals of PERIPRem – nurturing a regional clinical community dedicated to improving outcomes for our most vulnerable babies and working side by side with women and their families – were, in an instant, stopped in their tracks.

Pre-COVID, I had been lucky enough to attend the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology’s “Let’s Talk about Race” event for International Women’s Day. The stories I heard further cemented the commitment we had to reducing inequalities.  We could not deliver a perinatal quality improvement project without ensuring that we were actively listening – and considering how to chip away at the barriers that result in Black and Minority Ethnic women being 5 times more likely to die in childbirth and their children to experience poorer outcomes. This was even before we knew the increased risk of COVID to people of colour and the raised chance of preterm labour for those women unfortunate enough to contract the virus whilst pregnant.

Just as we finalised plans for launch, and to get out into the communities and find every opportunity to involve those who lives are imprinted by the experience of preterm birth, COVID hit. Our PERIPRem teams were now on the battle lines, and we were nestled behind our laptop screens, shell shocked. Our ability to be agile and adapt to novel ways of working mattered now more than ever.

I’ll admit, I was sceptical how we could launch what was still a seedling of a programme to twelve units across the whole of the South West, when we were unable to leave our kitchens, let alone realise our plans to provide fertile ground for the creation of a regional PERIPRem clinical community. Without a physical launch, how could we provide space for those small but mighty moments, that when cultivated, have more of an impact than any toolkit or presentation?

I often struggle when I have to describe QI; in my experience it is much bigger than a framework or a process by which you can input your problem and wait for gold-standard results. For me, QI has its foundations in the people, the team and the culture. It is the introductions to new faces, teams huddled together around meeting tables, clinicians whispering to colleagues they had not seen for years and the camaraderie brewed alongside the substandard coffee.  We grow highly functioning teams, and the most exciting part of any QI project, on these blocks. It was boom or bust but I needn’t have worried.

We have formed strong bonds as a PERIPRem team; we have even managed a team social. My treasured counterpart in the South West AHSN and I have never met, we joke that we do not know what each other look like from the shoulders down. We have bonded over the many cameos from the PERIPRem teams’ children – or Assistant QI Coaches as they are now known.

Most importantly, the PERIPRem perinatal teams have flourished. Whilst in the pressure cooker of the pandemic, we gave space and time to focus on delivering patient care – when they got a handle on what it meant for them as clinicians, they came back raring to go.  We have digitised all of our resources and are now holding webinars on each of the bundle elements – they are so well attended we cannot fit on a screen!

People have pushed through discomfort to record themselves sharing the clinical fundamentals and to provide the presence (all be it through a screen) we all miss. We are exploring new ways to engage with the women we were so keen to meet and listen to, and we are forever indebted to our patient representatives who are now pillars of our PERIPRem team.

The takeaway message from that tired trope of “these unprecedented times” is that we are stronger than we think. At the end of each exhausting day, when we have had our fill of fighting for bandwidth with Xboxing teenagers, with tired mouths from calmly saying, “you’re on mute”, we have been and will continue to be successful. More significantly, we have supported frazzled teammates, butted horns and laughed until we cried.

There is a sense of freedom this way of working has granted us. Whilst before, there was a tendency to stick to the tried and tested method of engaging and working with our clinical communities, COVID allowed us to think again. We used technology to enable hospital teams scattered across the entire southwest to meaningfully engage in PERIPRem without ever having to leave their wards. I was worried connecting through screens and keyboards would reinforce the distance between us all, but I am surprised to realise that it has in fact accelerated relationships and in turn progress.

Having to rely on the written word in email has meant that tone and intonation have been more carefully considered and the periods of chat offered through video calls means each sentence really counts. Of more significance, is a flattening of the hierarchy within our team. Each person no matter what their seniority is vital in keeping the PERIPRem wheel turning – be it because they know how to record a MS Teams meeting, or because they have the complex clinical knowledge of a perinatal intervention.  It is not that we did not appreciate this before, but the situation forced us to see beyond the limitations of a job description.

I have reflected on whether, upon return to ‘normality’, if we as a team will revert to the pre-COVID way of working. Whilst I would like to think there would be a time when we are able to sit in offices and meet with units, I do not think that is the whole question. I can honestly say I hope we do not – I do not want to forget our swift response to the restrictions placed on us, or our unwavering faith in our ability to make improvements.

I believe that we have fundamentally changed the way we will approach projects such as this in the future. We are braver in our ways of facilitating community, we have lived experience of delivering change programmes utilising technology rather than travel and we know that when needed, we can free ourselves of the legacy of traditional and more restrictive ways of working.

AHSN collaborations around mental health and dementia

In March 2016, the AHSN Network ran its first intra AHSN learning event focussing on Mental Health.

The need for collaboration and knowledge mobilisation was identified by the AHSN Network’s Managing Directors group to:

  • celebrate the breadth of work being undertaken across the country
  • share best practice
  • collaborate with the relevant National Clinical Directors
  • support the adoption of innovations across AHSNs by raising awareness and sharing resources.

This first event on Mental Health included a presentation from Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health, on the most important areas of need for innovation and improvement, as well as a call from patient representatives to celebrate positive practice.

The event also piloted a model consisting of 10 micro presentations from AHSNs combined with an open dialogue space to allow networking and knowledge mobilisation across the AHSN network. See the full  programme here.

Examples of AHSN work showcased

  • The use of checklists to improve the quality of physical health checks for people with serious and enduring mental illness (the Bradford toolkit: Yorkshire and Humber AHSN)
  • A comprehensive new approach to child and adolescent mental health services ( iTHRIVE: UCLP)
  • DeAR GP and House of Memories (two approaches to improve training, screening and empathy in dementia care HIN and North West Coast AHSNs)
  • A high fidelity approach to reduce variation in the treatments and outcomes for anxiety and depression (Oxford)
  • Work to improve outcomes for people diagnosed with psychosis as a young adult (Wessex and Imperial AHSN)
  • An effective whole system approach to prevention of mental health crisis (Raid: West Midlands AHSN)
  • A quality improvement toolkit for Mental Health (MINDSet: West of England AHSN)
  • A person centred and innovative approach to individual placement and support (East Midlands AHSN).

Key learning from the event

  • The many examples of best practice, already developed by AHSNs and their members, which are now ready to be adopted by other AHSNs
  • The plentiful opportunities to collaborate and align innovations, such as the DeAR GP (a tool to identify residents in care homes showing signs of dementia and referring them to a GP for diagnosis) with House of Memories (an app for people who suffer from dementia and their carers)
  • The importance of service push and citizen pull for products, pathways and new ways of working
  • The importance of economic evaluation to aid adoption and spread.

Key follow up actions for Mental Health / Dementia

  • 34 offers of intra AHSN collaboration
  • 27 offers of links to other ASHN projects
  • An offer to compile case studies for wider circulation
  • An offer to compile list of potential collaborations and links
  • Great Manchester volunteered to host a follow up event

Find out more about the various opportunities for collaborations here.

The event was deemed a success with all 15 AHSNs represented and it was agreed the approach would be used as a model for future learning events.

Next steps

  • All Improvement Directors to follow up progress on collaborations expressed at the March event with their own participants
  • ‘Offering’ AHSNs to contact ‘interested’ AHSNs and share details of their innovation and arrange a webex to discuss adoption
  • Schedule a follow-up event (hosted by Greater Manchester AHSN) to include a review of the progress of adoption
  • Agree focus of next learning event and members of the planning group.

The image above is a still taken from a short film about the ‘My House of Memories’ app, designed by and for people living with dementia. Find out more here.

Intra-AHSN learning event on mental health

The improvement directors from the 15 AHSNs across England are looking forward to hosting the first intra-AHSN learning event on Mental Health in London on Wednesday 2 March.

This will be a unique opportunity to hear about the innovative work that AHSNs are supporting in the field of mental health.

The day will allow AHSNs to showcase their work, share best practice and learning points, form natural collaborations and have time to discuss key national next steps with Dr Geraldine Strathdee NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health and patient representatives from Positive Practice in Mental Health.

Anna Burhouse, Director of Quality for the West of England AHSN, worked with the northwest Coast and West Midland AHSNs to design the format of the event.

The West of England AHSN will be presenting their work on a new national quality improvement toolkit for mental health, which celebrates best practice, mobilises knowledge and shares tools and resources for change. This work is a collaboration with many mental health trusts, NHS England, Monitor, ImROC and NHS Confederation. It will be launched in the spring and fellow AHSNs will have sneak preview of it at the March learning event.

Anna said: “As a passionate mental health clinician I believe we have to innovate and improve mental healthcare to make it more person-centred and increasingly focused on how to support important life outcomes for people, as well as the reduction of their symptoms.

“We need new ways of designing and delivering systems that are preventative, effective and recovery orientated. Increasingly, we need to ensure the expertise of people with lived experience of mental illness comes together with academics, health and social care professionals and business to generate fresh ideas and thinking.

“Choosing mental health to be the subject of the first intra-AHSN learning event demonstrates the AHSN’s commitment to this process and their positive role as catalysts for change.”

To see more of the quality improvement work Anna helps to support as a mental health clinician alongside her role as Director of Quality for the West of England AHSN, watch the Health Foundation’s Power of People film, The Recovery College.

Reinforcing the power of AHSNs

Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, Rob Webster visited the West of England AHSN on Tuesday 2 February and was clearly impressed by the work he saw being developed by our network.

Writing in his regular news briefing later that week, he said:

“We need to do what is in our gift within our organisations, as evidenced by the brilliant work on ‘crowding’ coming out of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. The excellent Dr Emma Redfern shared work on National Early Warning Scores (NEWS) and the development of an ED checklist that is saving lives and improving services. The work is spreading across the South West, under the Patient Safety Collaborative supported by the West of England AHSN.

“The AHSNs are currently collating their top three innovations for a compendium – after half a day at the brilliant WEAHSN, they will struggle to get it down to only three each.

“There are some days when you feel you are stealing a living and this was one of them. From the PreCePT work on preventing cerebral palsy in preterm babies to risk factors in atrial fibrillation in general practice, the work is clinically-led, evidence-based and having impact. Lives are being saved, clinicians enthused and the public informed. Check out things like dontwaittoanticoagulate.com and www.openprescribing.net for examples of what they do.

“Thanks to Deborah Evans and her team at West of England AHSN for reinforcing the power of AHSNs. It was timely as Sir Hugh Taylor and I met this week to discuss how AHSNs play into the final recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review.”