Ten healthcare innovations receive funding to support transformation

Innovation Agency provides £387,825 funding for innovations which aim to improve treatment pathways and keep people well and out of hospital

Dr Robert Cooper, a cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, will lead the project to deliver detailed 3D anatomical prints from patient scans; one of 10 innovations given funding by the Innovation Agency

Innovations that will help to improve the health of residents in the North West of England have been awarded a total of £387,825 from the Innovation Agency.

Ten projects which aim to improve treatment pathways and keep people well and out of hospital have been funded through the Innovation Agency's Transformation Through Innovation Fund.

The projects are:

  • Video consultations at home for outpatient appointments at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trus
  • Using 3D printed models of organs to support surgery preparation at two Liverpool hospitals
  • Expanding a teletriage programme in Wirral care homes
  • An app for improving children’s health in Halton
  • Expanding the successful ‘Baby Box’ programme for expectant mothers across Halton with additional online support
  • An app prescribed by GPs to help change lifestyles in Skelmersdale
  • Portable technology to improve the care of patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular or fast heart rhythm, in East Lancashire
  • A falls prevention programme in Lancashire residential homes
  • A health coaching initiative in Lancashire and South Cumbria to give patients more control of their own care
  • A gaming app for childhood asthma

Dr Liz Mear, chief executive of the Innovation Agency, said: “We’re delighted to support these projects, which will not only benefit patients now, but create a lasting health legacy for the next generation.”

The Innovation Agency is the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast and acts as a catalyst for health innovation and economic growth.

Better Points

In Skelmersdale, West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group will deliver a ‘BetterPoints’ programme, in which GPs will ‘prescribe’ an app to patients which monitors how well they carry out an agreed set of healthy activities.

Through making small lifestyle changes, patients earn rewards such as high street points or donations to charity.

NHS West Lancashire CCG chief officer, Mike Maguire, said: “Most of Skelmersdale is within the top 5% of the most-deprived areas in the nation and we are trying to improve the health of our population.

“The funding from the Innovation Agency will provide a simple way to help people adopt healthier lifestyles.

The ‘BetterPoints’ app will reward people for undertaking activities which have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing, whether that’s having a daily walk, using stairs rather than a lift, or reducing their intake of alcohol or sugar.”

East Lancashire CCG’s project is to improve the lives of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF).

This will provide portable technology enabling people to monitor their condition at home, giving them better control and improving the accuracy of warfarin dosage.

Professor Umesh Chauhan, Pendle GP and the lead GP for cardiovascular disease, said: “In the UK there are currently more than one million people diagnosed with AF, a heart condition which causes an irregular heart rhythm.

“Despite AF increasing the risk of stroke, heart failure and death, studies show that anticoagulation therapy to reduce the risk of AF related stroke is underused in the UK.

“In East Lancashire we have more than 5,000 patients using warfarin, but we also recognise that those who are self monitoring are achieving better control of their condition.

Self monitoring

“We are working with GP practices and their patients with AF to create a system to support self-monitoring. Patients can use a portable, accurate device which feeds information back to the clinic and ultimately avoid frequent clinic visits.”

A project to prevent falls among residents in Lancashire residential homes has also received funding.

There will be a predicted 40% increase in falls by older people in the next 20 years.

The project, called ‘Steady On’ has been developed by the falls prevention team at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Central Lancashire and is now being adopted countywide.

Addressing residents’ physical and mental wellbeing increases their independence, reduces the level of support required and reduces the number of falls.

The project involves body-worn sensors and a mobile app to assess mobility, falls risks and frailty and includes community support, education, physiotherapy and podiatry.

This approach has helped to reduce the numbers of older people needing to attend A&E, keeping people safe and reducing pressure on the NHS.

Lancashire County Council director of public health, Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, said: “Suffering a fall can be traumatic, causing serious injury and disrupting lives.

“The funding from the Innovation Agency will be used for the next step of this project: using technology to assess the risk of falls and frailty of those attending education sessions in the community; and developing falls prevention plans across more than 40 residential homes, which will help more than 500 people.”

A joint bid from Healthier Lancashire and the North West Coast Strategic Clinical Network, as part of the Lancashire and South Cumbria transformation programme, won support to provide health coaching.

Health coaching requires clinicians to empower patients in making decisions about their care; and training is provided to clinicians in how to put patients in the driving seat when carrying out consultations.

The approach has been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction; and reduce demands on health services.

A programme of training for clinicians will involve nine CCGs, more than 200 GP practices, five acute NHS hospital trusts, a health and wellbeing trust, a single-specialty learning disability trust, Lancashire and Cumbria County Council and Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool Councils.

Health coaching

Eleanor Garnett-Bentley, consultant in public health, said: “Through region-wide health coaching we hope to change the nature of clinical relationships, particularly for patients with diabetes and long-term conditions.

Because video consultations can happen from any suitable location, clinicians don’t need to travel and have more time available to see more patients so that waiting times will be reduced.

“Ultimately the programme will encourage independence, self management, and improve care through a better conversation between specialists and their patients.

“Health coaching is one of five national priorities for NHS England’s Realising the Value programme and across the country health coaching has shown it increases patients’ activation and motivation to self manage medication, adopt health behaviours, and can reduce unplanned hospital admissions.”

At St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the Innovation Agency investment will enable the introduction of video consultations for outpatient appointments.

Christine Walters, director of informatics, said that the initial phase of the project, in the burns and plastics department and the stroke clinic, will benefit almost 1,000 patients across the North West of England and North Wales.

“The pressures of modern living, travel issues and juggling work and/or childcare commitments along with health issues can make it difficult to attend appointments.

“By using a laptop, tablet or smart phone, the doctor and patient can see each other on screen in real time which gives patients flexibility and negates the need for often expensive travel.

“Additionally, because video consultations can happen from any suitable location, clinicians don’t need to travel and have more time available to see more patients so that waiting times will be reduced.”

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals are using the Innovation Agency funding to buy detailed 3D anatomical prints from patient scans.

The 3D models allow clinicians to examine problems before surgery and perform simulations, shortening theatre time and saving costs. This funding will support 3D printing uses for cardiac and vascular surgery.

Dr Robert Cooper, cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said: “Atrial septal defect is a type of congenital heart defect where there is a ‘hole’ in the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart. For each patient the hole is a slightly-different size and requires an individual approach.

“Having a 3D model printed from the scan of a patient has the potential to improve patient care and reduce patient anxiety through a better understanding of their individual condition.”

Royal Liverpool University Hospital’s Dr Steve Powell added: “We have developed a relationship with 3D Life Prints through our business accelerator which brings innovative SMEs, academics and clinicians closer together.

“We are purchasing 3D models for, among other things, the simulation of implanting stents during abdominal endovascular aneurysm repair and for better understanding of transplant surgery.

Preventing admissions

“Studies have shown that using 3D anatomical models can reduce surgical times by up to 22% and help prevent complications.”

Wirral Council, Wirral CCG, Wirral Community NHS Foundation Trust, and Wirral University Teaching Hospital are using the Innovation Agency funding as an extension to their Teletriage programme in 30 care homes.

Through linking with patients via video to identify early problems, the Teletriage project aims to reduce ambulance journeys, A&E attendances and hospital admissions of patients at these homes by 10% during a year.

Boo Stone, commissioning lead said: “We believe the project could save more than £250,000 during 12 months, but we are keen to extend Teletriage across 75 older peoples’ care homes in Wirral from the end of 2017.

“Studies show that using Teletriage helps patients remain within their home, thus improving their patient experience, and reduces exposure to hospital acquired infection and hospital based falls which are more prevalent among this group.”

Expectant mothers in Halton will benefit from an online extension to the popular ‘Baby Box’ project thanks to Innovation Agency funding.

Catherine McClennan, programme director of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s and Children’s Partnership, explained: “Each of the 1,600 babies born in Halton every year will receive a free Baby Box, which comes with a foam mattress, waterproof cover, and cotton sheet which may offer an alternative to a Moses basket or cot. This scheme has helped Finland achieve the world’s-lowest infant mortality rate.

The NHS can learn much from the games world about not only how to engage citizens at scale, but also the psychology of nudging positive behaviour

“The Baby Box is part of a wider improvement programme to ensure mothers and babies have access to maternity care, advice and support as early as possible in pregnancy and through to the early years for their children.

The Innovation Agency funding is being used to enhance the Baby Box University – a maternal and childcare education platform – by linking local organisations and support groups to become part of a Baby Box community and improve social isolation and emotional and physical wellbeing.

“We want women and their families to feel supported and are committed to making them feel as healthy as possible in pregnancy, birth and beyond,” said McClennan

To help children with asthma, NHS Liverpool CCG is working with local company, Milky Tea, to develop an app that, through play and fun, creates better understanding about asthma and the importance of using inhalers. Funding from the Innovation Agency will support the launch of the app.

Dave Horsfield, senior progamme manager for Digital Care at NHS Liverpool CCG, said: “The NHS can learn much from the games world about not only how to engage citizens at scale, but also the psychology of nudging positive behaviour.

“This development with Milky Tea will help the NHS learn about serious games, what works, what doesn’t, and enable the games industry understand the challenges we have in health.”

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