On her one-year anniversary at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, our business innovation manager Charlotte Fox talks about embedding innovation in the NHS.
Innovation plays such a vital role in improving patient care and supporting delivery of the best possible health services.
It’s really important that opportunities to innovate don’t get lost while the NHS is grappling with so many unprecedented and important priorities, including striving to provide consistently high-quality care, reducing waiting lists and seeing more patients as quickly as possible.
We need to continue to embrace innovation as an enabler; doing things differently and finding creative solutions will help achieve Newcastle hospitals’ vision to remain at the forefront of advances in patient care.
I’ve worked in and around the NHS since I was 17 and have seen a lot of change, including the very real impact that innovation can have on healthcare, for example through virtual wards, digitisation, better treatments, new procedures or service transformation across the health and care system.
At Newcastle we have hugely valuable expertise and assets, including world leading clinical research capabilities, diagnostics and treatments. Over the last year, supporting and enabling these assets to facilitate innovation has been exciting. In the last year alone, alongside teams across Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University we’ve worked to secure over £30 million of funding to support research and innovation projects.
We also work in partnership with organisations such as Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP), our local universities and the region’s Academic Health Science Network to translate world-class research and innovation into real life benefits for patients, improving people’s health and the region’s economy.
Examples of this include the North East Innovation Lab and the Novopath laboratory which are both part of the Diagnostics North East partnership that supports the development, evaluation and adoption of cutting-edge diagnostics for better patient outcomes.
In my role I can provide support to colleagues at all stages of the innovation journey, for example.
– if they’re in the early stages of an idea and unsure how to take it to the next stage of testing or development;
– at the point where they’re ready to partner with industry to develop a prototype or to manufacture;
– to provide intellectual property or contractual expertise;
– to support partnerships and collaboration with colleagues elsewhere in the health and care system – regionally or nationally;
– if there’s a problem or unmet need in their service and they’re looking for expert help to develop a solution;
– to capture the benefits of innovation and support the wider spread and adoption.
Over the last year we’ve been working hard to build networks that support innovation, both within our own organisation and through developing more partnerships. To unlock true potential we need to seek solutions not just within our own sector but also through linking with others to share knowledge, insight and ideas.
In December last year we held an event to bring together manufacturing and engineering companies with healthcare colleagues from different backgrounds, to engage on a range of ideas and initiatives. This harnessed some fantastic connections, with great feedback from those who attended, and we’ll be holding more such themed events soon.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve also had the opportunity to share and draw on innovation expertise across the country, as part of an innovation exchange that includes some of our fellow Shelford Group NHS organisations such as Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
I’m also supporting the InSites programme as part of the Clinical Entrepreneur Programme as Newcastle Hospitals is one of ten test bed sites across the country for the programme which supports budding entrepreneurs to develop new solutions to benefit staff and patients which has further expanded our network across the NHS and has fast become a key enabler to support the adoption of innovation into Newcastle Hospitals as well as supporting our own colleagues to innovate.
As I reflect on the last 12 months it’s incredible the amount of work going on to support better patient care and I’m really passionate about creating a wider understanding of why innovation belongs to everyone and to support all colleagues in accessing guidance or advice to help develop their products or ideas.
Our new innovation strategy, launching this spring, will really set out our commitment and ambitions for this.
I’d love to hear from colleagues or anyone else interested in working together, so please get in touch at [email protected]