Innovate UK backs open source SME to drive new approach to NHS digital health

OpusVL consortium awarded record £790,000 grant to research and implement a new digital electronic observation solution to identify deteriorating patients

A consortium led by UK open source (OS) software integrator, OpusVL, has been awarded a £790,000 government grant to develop reusable applications for the UK healthcare sector.

The sum is the largest Innovate UK research and development grant awarded to an OS project to date.

The grant is for the development of processes for creating and delivering OS software to the UK healthcare sector as part of a wider open approach.

The project includes proof of concept through the creation and validation of an app that calculates the National Early Warning Score, a key predictor of sepsis in hospital patients, which claims the lives of an estimated 46,000 people a year in the UK.

The 19-month project will research and implement a new digital electronic observation (eObs) solution to identify deteriorating patients.

Notably, not only does the solution connect through open standards to other hospital systems; but the software, design, documentation and all associated components will be made available to the community to be studied, re-used and further developed.

We’re thrilled to have been given the opportunity by Innovate UK to prove that professional open source is the only viable solution to the NHS’s complex software needs

Its ultimate aim is to create a blueprint for clinician-led open software design that delivers the exact functionality needed to optimise NHS patient care, while reducing the NHS’s £7billion annual software licence renewal bill.

It is being designed with future flexibility and will be integrated into the NHS networks.

The ground-breaking practical study will work with doctors and nurses to evaluate current NHS working practices, identifying strengths and weaknesses.

A best-practice approach will then be implemented in the app, before being tested in a cutting-edge hospital simulator.

The last stage of the project will be field trials at hospitals in two NHS trusts, before the final report is delivered.

Innovate UK understood that we have ambitious aims to transform the NHS’s approach to digital technology, helping to create software that is the perfect clinical fit for today and adaptable for tomorrow saving lives and money simultaneously

OpusVL is the lead partner in a consortium, joined by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, The Apperta Foundation CIC Trust, Open UK and a leading UK university.

The combination of academic rigour, clinical partnership, and technological expertise harnessed by the consortium for this study heralds a turning point in the NHS’s approach to open source software.

Stuart J Mackintosh, chief executive of OpusVL, said: “We’re thrilled to have been given the opportunity by Innovate UK to prove that professional open source is the only viable solution to the NHS’s complex software needs.

“Innovate UK understood that we have ambitious aims to transform the NHS’s approach to digital technology, helping to create software that is the perfect clinical fit for today and adaptable for tomorrow saving lives and money simultaneously.”

The project launches this week , with trials due to start in May 2020.

Project progress will be presented at key UK healthcare events with final research findings published in August next year.

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