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.  

Introducing the quality improvement (QI) winter series

The West of England Academy are hosting a series of five online workshops each Wednesday from 27 January on quality improvement (QI). Free to attend, and for any innovator or employee within healthcare, each one-hour session is standalone so you can choose individual workshops or sign up for the series.

Each workshop will be interactive, so you can apply learning in real-world scenarios. The workshops will be beneficial regardless if you are working on a specific QI project or not. If you encounter challenges in your role (or outside work), and want to consider how these can be tackled through QI, these sessions will help.

Attendees can be in any role or level within their organisation or business; for example clinical, product development, administration or facilities.

Our academy works hard to welcome attendees from a broad range of backgrounds creating a safe and open environment for learning and sharing ideas.

The West of England Academy offers a wide range of free resources to healthcare professionals and innovators across the region. To find out more, visit our Academy pages or email academy@weahsn.net.

Reflections on hosting virtual interactive workshops

In this Q&A our West of England Academy Project Managers Kate Phillips and Vardeep Deogan share their reflections on the delivery of the Academy’s recent Quality Improvement (QI) Summer Series. They led 10 hours of online interactive workshops and delivery of QI theory by 12 different facilitators to around 60 delegates per session from across the West of England region and beyond. The Academy team have also compiled a series of slides with their top tips on hosting virtual learning.

Vardeep talks about virtual learning

  1. What did you enjoy about the QI Summer Series?

Vardeep: Every part of our workshops had a purpose, so being creative and thinking outside the box with activities without making them complicated was really important. Supporting our guest facilitators was a pleasure too. After our fifth session, we really felt a sense of achievement, and we cannot wait to deliver future online workshops.

Kate: An unanticipated pleasure was coaching our guest facilitators. Vardeep and I were the main hosts, but wanted the series to reflect the wealth of knowledge and range of experiences of working with QI across the West of England. We also figured that our voices might be a bit dull for two hours straight! Considering that online training was a fairly new concept, this meant that Vardeep and I mentored our guest facilitators to deliver their 25 minute activity. The feedback from the guest facilitators was lovely – they felt challenged by the experience but also supported. I think they were all very proud of themselves which was great to see.

The overwhelmingly positive response to the sessions has also been wonderful. Vardeep and I cooked these sessions up, combining our knowledge and experiences and we seemed to have stumbled upon a winning formula!

“Exceeded my expectations – I learnt so much.”

    2. What are the differences between online and face-to-face delivery?

Vardeep: When delivering face to face it’s much easier to ‘read the room’ for non-verbal communication and how people interact with each other, and as a facilitator you respond accordingly. We had to think differently about how to get this feedback during and throughout each workshop. This involved designing activities and including opportunities for feedback using functions like slido, the chat box and voting.

We also considered different learning styles and made certain to include activities that reflected these. Using liberating structures supported this.

Kate: The whole experience is different- quite often I’d be looking at only one or two faces in the corner of my screen, but knowing I was talking to 50+ delegates who had prioritised our training over other work, it’s a bit of a barmy experience really! I think delivering online sessions brings a different type of nervous energy…the adrenaline flows!

   3. Can you tell us about your biggest ‘aha’ moment?

Vardeep: As the series progressed, even though we may have been delivering our fourth or fifth session (and at times felt we were repeating ourselves with instructions for activities etc.) we kept in mind that this may be someone’s first experience on zoom or of virtual learning. I realised the value of clear instructions from the positive feedback we received where our clarity was praised. This was a key learning point.

Kate: For me, a lovely moment during our second session was when Vardeep asked a delegate to turn their mic on and share their experiences verbally with the entire group. We regularly asked delegates to share feedback via the Zoom chat box, but giving individuals the platform to voice their thoughts brought the session alive. It did mean having to relinquish some control, but it was worth it every time. Sharing the platform was important.

“I think I’ve learned more in this two-hour online session than any other face-to-face course I’ve attended!”

    4. Have you learnt any new skills with online facilitation/delivery?

Vardeep: I’ve learnt you have to be even more adaptable and fluid when delivering online. Anything can happen at any time (tech issues!) and you have to be able to step in and pick up anything, whether this is the delivery of a session or an aspect of facilitation. Every member of the team needs to be able to pick up any role and this really stretched me and took me out of my comfort zone – we survived a few hairy moments.

Kate: I had delivered a few online webinars before, but they were very much ‘chalk and talk’ style. I’ve loved learning about, and using, Liberating Structures to keep delegates engaged and to facilitate interaction between them. I’ve also enjoyed thinking creatively to convert traditional face-to-face QI training for online delivery.

   5. Have you learnt anything about yourselves during this project?

Vardeep: Working alongside Kate to plan every session in detail, really enabled me to be fluid and agile to the needs of others, particularly guest facilitators. I’ve learnt that with the right team around you, you can adapt to any last minute change and for it to still feel under control and most importantly – fun.

Kate: I’ve learnt that my happy place is extremely organised and where I’m in control. Fortunately Vardeep is very good at making me feel safe enough to step outside of that and allow space for spontaneity and discussion, and that’s where the magic happens! On the flip-side, I’ve learnt to value the skill of organisation and I don’t think we could have pulled off this series without it.

“Really good workshop today – best I’ve attended during this whole pandemic, so thanks to you and your colleagues”.

  6. What has been the biggest challenge?

Vardeep: You never truly know how you’re being received online until you read the feedback.  Over the five sessions I got used to smiling and talking to a camera instead of being able to make eye contact and responding to non-verbal cues. That often felt odd but it’s vital to the person the other side of the screen.

Kate: At the start I was overwhelmed with the task that lay ahead of us, thinking about all the details. Fortunately I work with brilliant colleagues who made this series a true team effort. I was able to focus on planning and delivering the sessions in a step-by-step way, knowing that the event logistics and marketing of the series were being expertly handled. Breaking down the roles, tasks and working as a team was crucial.

 7. Do you have any top tips for online delivery?

Vardeep: Plenty….

  • As a facilitation team agree a way of communicating with each other behind the scenes (such as Whatsapp). This allows you to adapt, adjust or abandon as you go along.
  • Plan your sessions with timings in mind. This is invaluable and is a skill – things often take longer virtually. This also includes prepping any guests.
  • Allow time for a team pre-brief and de-brief after each session. Kate, Shomais and I always spent time reflecting on what went well, what didn’t go so well and we also captured new ideas to incorporate for the next session on ideaz boards or jamboards.

Kate: I think one of my favourite phrases from this series was “team work makes the dream work”. We couldn’t have delivered such a slick series without the designated online technical support that our colleague Shomais provided. Having clear roles and responsibilities in the team was important, e.g. being clear on who is responding to questions in the chat box, who is co-ordinating break-out rooms and who is introducing facilitators and welcoming delegates back from breaks. I think the clarity of roles and knowing we could depend on each other, created a safe space to do each of our jobs really well.

Thanks to Kate and Vardeep for sharing their experiences.

Further information about the West of England Academy’s online resources and future events can be found here.

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.

Supporting Care Homes: Transfer of Care Around Medicines

Since 2018, as one of the AHSN Network’s national adoption and spread programmes, Transfer of Care Around Medicines (TCAM) has been an important medicines safety project for the West of England AHSN.

Upon discharge from hospital, 30-70% of patients experience unintentional changes to their medications or an error is made because of a miscommunication. 37%1 of older patients experience medication related harm within eight weeks of discharge. This was estimated to cost the NHS £396m per year. These errors can also result in patients being readmitted to hospital.

TCAM identifies patients in hospital who need additional support with their medicines, often people using multi-compartmental compliance aids. These patients are referred for pharmacy input in the community.

We know through our recent project work commissioned via the national network of Patient Safety Collaboratives that medication errors in care homes is a significant issue, and that residents medications upon discharge from hospitals are a consistent concern nationally.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a renewed focus from NHS England and a national call to action for the NHS to support the “provision of pharmacy and medication support to care homes”.  Building on the communication system utilised to deliver the TCAM project, our response pivoted to supporting reviews of new care home residents or those recently discharged from hospital by sending messages directly to community based pharmacy teams that support care homes with their medicines management.

Working collaboratively with member organisations and commissioners, the West of England AHSN is testing the hypothesis that utilising the TCAM communication system to refer to pharmacy teams that support care homes will mirror the impact identified in the nationally commissioned programme and reduce medication errors and potentially reduce readmission rates1,2,3,4.

Our medicines optimisation programme benefits from active and experienced colleagues from member organisations who form the Medicines Safety Steering Group. Through this group, experience and understanding was utilised to build on the original TCAM programme for the benefit of care home residents. In responding to our commissioner’s renewed focus, the collaborative and cross-system nature of AHSNs was demonstrated by the implementation of this project at pace in one regional trust.

Chris Learoyd, Project Manager said:

“Listening to our member organisations, care homes and understanding their needs and regional system(s) was crucial. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, but the AHSN’s approach to project delivery has remained. The reactive, adaptive and collaborative practices required in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic have indeed drew-upon the AHSN’s approach: supporting healthcare innovation, quality improvement across the system; generating additional capacity, avoiding unnecessary costs whilst enhancing safety across the health and social care sector”.

References:

  1. Sabir FR, Tomlinson J, Strickland-Hodge B, Smith H. Evaluating the Connect with Pharmacy webbased intervention to reduce hospital readmission for older people. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11096-019-00887-3
  2. Nazar H, Brice S, Akhter N, Kasim A, Gunning A, Slight SP, Watson NW. New transfer of care initiative of electronic referral from hospital to community pharmacy in England: a formative service evaluation. BMJ Open. https://doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012532
  3. Mantzourani E, Nazar H, Phibben C, Pang J, John G, Evans A, Thomas H, Way C, Hodson K. Exploring the association of the discharge medicines review with patient hospital readmissions through national routine data linkage in Wales: a retrospective cohort study. BMJ Open. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-033551
  4. Wilcock M, Sibley A, Blackwell R, Kluettgenas B, Robsen S, Bastian L. Involving community pharmacists in transfer of care from hospital: Indications of reduced 30-day hospital readmission rates for patients in Cornwall. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.  http://doi:10.1111/ijpp.12603

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.

New King’s Fund report on transformative technology for long-term health conditions

A new King’s Fund report, part funded by the West of England AHSN, titled Technology and innovation for long-term health conditions uses four unique case studies to outline and discuss key themes of effective implementation of digital innovation.

AHSNs commissioned the King’s Fund to explore four different digital innovations in health services from the UK and the Nordic countries in order to demonstrate transformative potential and compare and contrast themes across geographies. The paper acts as a continuation of the AHSN’s commitment to learn from and take a collaborative approach to innovation transnationally with countries that form the Northern Future Forum (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom). This follows an initial Innovation Leadership Exchange event in September 2019, attended by senior leaders within health and care across the Northern Future Forum countries.

The paper also recognises the rapid uptake of digital innovation driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and outlines some of the questions services need to answer to sustain and implement digital technologies effectively going forward.

One of the case studies featured in the report is UK-based social enterprise, Patients Know Best who provide an online patient portal offering patients and health care staff a safe and secure way of exchanging information and giving patients access to their medical records.

One key feature of Patients Know Best’s approach is to put patients in charge, ensuring that they can access all the information about themselves in real time. Patients decide who else can access their information and allow new health care staff to join their team when needed, for example, when a GP or accident and emergency staff need to see their care plans.

Patients Know Best have been supported by a number of regional AHSNs since 2016 and has been adopted in more than 70 NHS trusts in England and can be accessed by more than five million NHS patients.

Other case studies include:

  • TeleCare North programme, which provides remote treatment for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Helsinki University Hospital’ remote diabetes monitoring programme for children
  • Huoleti app that connects patients with a support network.

The case studies illustrate the potential of digital technology to transform care, particularly through empowering patients, supporting stronger therapeutic relationships and effective teamworking across professional boundaries, and creating networks and communities to support patients.

Some key areas of discussion highlighted in the report include:

  • Responsive services for unpredictable diseases
  • Technology-enabled teamworking
  • Relationships enabled by technology
  • Collaborative design
  • Iterative cycles of improvement

The paper also calls on health and care providers to assess the impact on staff and patients of the rapid transition to online services driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure changes are fully assessed and to question whether there is scope to be more ambitious in redesigning services.

Read the report here. 

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.

West of England innovator tapped to transform England’s NHS through national acceleration

On 5 March, 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.

Developed by Mark Moran MBE, The WaterDrop is a low-cost, high-impact innovation enabling patients to easily access fluids at any time without needing to call for help. This innovation helps prevent dehydration and avoidable intravenous drips and could provide a breakthrough in a variety of health and social care settings. Mark received support for The WaterDrop back in 2016 through the Health Innovation Programme (HIP), our immersive bootcamp for healthcare entrepreneurs.

At a launch event chaired by Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement, the 2020 cohort of Fellows presented their innovations to key stakeholders, including including Tony Young, National Clinical Lead for Innovation of NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust.

All of the innovations joining the award-winning NIA offer solutions supporting priority areas for England’s NHS as laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan. Their recruitment follows an international call and rigorous selection process, including review by over 100 clinical, patient and commercial assessors (including three from the West of England AHSN), alongside informal review by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The newly appointed group also includes a medically certified smartwatch app capable of detecting atrial fibrillation (AF), a device reducing the angst of parents by enabling faster ADHD diagnosis, and an artificial intelligence (AI) platform bringing patients’ voices to life to improve care.

This marks the fifth year of the NIA, which is an NHS England initiative delivered in partnership with England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), hosted at UCLPartners. Since 2015, it has supported the uptake and spread of 62 evidence-based innovations across more than 2,210 NHS sites. Independent evaluations report that NIA innovations save the health and social care system at least £38 million a year.

Alex Leach, our Deputy Director of Innovation and Growth, who contributed to the 2020 NIA selection process and attended the launch event in London, said:

“It’s fantastic to see an innovator and one of our HIP Alumni from the West of England selected for the NHS Innovation Accelerator. We know the innovations supported through the NIA make a real difference to the NHS, our economy, and most importantly patients and service users.

“At the West of England AHSN, we’ll continue to offer our support to The WaterDrop and all the 2020 Fellows to support adoption and spread of innovation across our footprint. The next round of NIA applications open later this year; I would encourage anyone thinking about applying or starting out on their innovator journey to get in touch.”

Piers Ricketts, Chair of the AHSN Network, said:

“The NHS Innovation Accelerator is one of the flagship programmes of the AHSN Network. NIA Fellows have made a huge contribution to our health and care system since we started the programme five years ago, and we are proud to have supported these remarkable individuals on their development journey. It is gratifying to see their high-impact innovations gaining traction and visibility through our accelerator programme, and we are delighted that several NIA innovations have now had national impact in the NHS.

We look forward to working with the new NIA Fellows to help them scale and deploy their innovations across the country for the benefit of patients and the NHS.”

About the NHS Innovation Accelorator (NIA):

The NIA is an NHS England Initiative delivered in partnership with England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), hosted by UCLPartners. 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:

  • 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