Innovation progress in the UK NHS

As part of a package of measures designed to support innovation in the UK NHS, an annual Inspiring Leaders Network (ILN) symposium has been launched. Louise Bellamy reports on the best practice case studies presented at the inaugural meeting last week, which are designed to help patients and save the NHS money.

The ILN initiative was founded by Tom Lindley, head of Commercial Development at Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), to create opportunities to learn, network and inspire the national health sector leaders who will influence the UK’s regional and national health sector in the future.

The theme for this year’s symposium was integration and its importance at both regional and national levels. As mentioned by a number of the speakers, integration is the key to true patient-centred care and, as quoted by Sir Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director for NHS England, “Innovation can happen anywhere, at any time. It can come from any source, and it can take any form.”

Chris Bain, chief executive, Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust chaired the symposium, and introduced Carol Wilby, head of Commercial and International Innovation, NHS England. Carol’s enthusiasm and passion came through as she spoke about the power of innovation to transform patient outcomes and save lives, as well as simultaneously improving quality and productivity. She cited the HOT-TIA (Hyper-acute online Transient Ischaemic Attack) referral system developed by Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which recently won an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize.

This state-of-the-art referral process has meant that the number of high-risk patients suffering a ‘mini stroke’ or TIA seen within 24 hours has soared from 17 per cent to 96 per cent, an improvement so striking that the system is being implemented in seven neighbouring NHS Trusts.

The Southend team, frustrated at seeing patients who could have been helped if their symptoms had been spotted earlier, joined colleagues in primary care and IT services to establish the new system. The previous paper-based referral system had been undermined by manual errors and delays caused by missing forms. Its replacement is an online electronic form, using simple pre-programmed drop-down boxes to avoid the need for complex paper calculations in GP surgeries.

“This scheme has the potential to save an estimated £116 million a year if successfully adopted across the NHS in England”

This scheme has the potential to save an estimated £116 million a year if successfully adopted across the NHS in England, with patients now seen within an average of 14.5 hours in 96 per cent of TIA referrals, compared to 17 per cent previously.

Carol stressed that the NHS’s greatest asset was its staff, and called for their skills to be harnessed more effectively. She said innovation was everyone’s business and the leadership culture in the NHS must support innovation.

Andrew Riley, managing director, Yorkshire and Humber AHSN outlined the need to make change happen and, most importantly, tell people about it. He spoke about the importance of education and training in building team confidence, and adopting a more “dare to try” culture.

The ‘Move More’ programme, developed by Sheffield Hallam University Health & Wellbeing Programme was also presented. Its aim is to empower communities, and ensure a more active workforce. Chronic disease and health inequalities are rising together with absenteeism, which, in the NHS, is twice that of the national average, so a programme such as this that enables schools, workplaces and families to be active and therefore more productive, clearly has huge cost saving implications throughout the country.

Richard Stubbs, commercial director, Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, spoke of the importance of working in partnership with industry and academia to grow research in healthcare and featured RD Biomed’s Peptest, which has been supported through the Innovation and Commercialisation pathway. The use of Peptest could potentially replace the use of invasive tests in determining the presence of reflux disease. With this in mind, RD Biomed approached healthcare innovation hub Medipex, which works to connect the NHS with industry, to help them understand the NHS landscape and route to market for Peptest in the UK. Yorkshire and Humber AHSN helped to speed up the project by granting RD Biomed access to its network of clinical innovators and gaining feedback on deployment of the diagnostic from Clinical Commissioning Groups in the UK.


“Without the bandages, the cost of managing a patient is estimated to be around £20,000, so there are clear cost savings for the NHS”



Carol Aries, head of Strategic Partnerships, 3M Health Care, and Professor Christine Moffatt, professor of Clinical Nursing Research, University of Nottingham School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy, talked about the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project set up by these two organisations to implement the UK’s first community nursing care pathway for the treatment of chronic oedema, including use of an innovative compression bandaging system. This two-layer bandage system costs approximately £1,000 per patient and it has proved to be extremely effective in managing the condition. Without the bandages, the cost of managing a patient is estimated to be around £20,000, so there are clear cost savings for the NHS.

The event was designed to encourage participants to think differently, trigger an open-minded approach and inspire new ways of working collaboratively. As Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, and the case studies highlighted the importance of working in partnership, making change happen and, most importantly, creating leadership capabilities and an environment where everyone can be the best they possibly can.

A clear and shared purpose is fundamental and one way to generate integration and time for innovation is to recruit, develop and reward inclusive leaders with the ability to empower staff.

In conjunction with the annual symposium a regional Shadow Board programme and a paired learning programme will be rolled out in 2016. For further information on the symposium contact Tom Lindley:

About the author:

Louise Bellamy is senior manager, Healthcare Partners at pharmaphorum. Louise’s background is in project management, having worked for almost 10 years across a number of industries, including market research, translation and publishing. Healthcare Partners is a unique educational programme focusing on innovation in cancer. Find out more at or @hc_partners.

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