How Salford CCG is discovering the latest healthcare innovations | Francine Thorpe

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Salford Clinical Commissioning Group’s director of quality and innovation shares how the organisation is using a Dragons’-Den style programme to uncover a wealth of new technologies.

Innovation is increasingly held up by senior healthcare leaders and NHS England as the vital solution to meeting many of the challenges in health and social care; a view shared by Salford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). In fact the scale of transformation necessary to deliver the ambition outlined in Salford’s locality plan is a considerable challenge that requires widespread innovation, enhanced use of technology and a commitment to research; and Salford is uniquely placed within Greater Manchester to be a test bed for innovation and research.

Salford CCG aims to commission the best possible care and experience for patients, and by using the research and innovation infrastructure, this is a tangible and credible aspiration.  

Digital solutions will aid our vision to provide the safest health and care in the country. Telecare, mobile apps, connected self-management tools; all types of digital health technologies that can be used to improve the lives of patients on whose behalf we commission services. 

Creative ideas are key to keep our CCG ahead of the game; an approach that has already resulted in the development of new services. In partnership with TRUSTECH, the innovation experts, Salford CCG has implemented a programme to identify solutions that demonstrate a potential return on investment, as well as an impact on the Salford Locality Plan. This is the most up-to-date example of our creative approach, and where our adoption of the Dragons’ Den programme began.

TRUSTECH designed, managed and delivered our programme and this ensured that it met our objectives, and kept on track during each phase.

A fund of £450,000 was allocated to evaluate digital health innovations in the local community, and the programme started with a call for innovations to companies, NHS organisations, voluntary organisations, universities, and independent innovators to apply for awards of up to £125,000.

This stage of the programme generated an incredible response, and from here selected applicants were invited to demonstrate their innovations to staff and patients using a market place event to demonstrate their ideas. Innovations recognised as having the most potential made it through to the next round; the Dragons’ Den itself.

Our team shortlisted four innovations:

  • The Guardian Angel Project (Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust): A digital platform to enable Salford residents at risk of falls to live more safely in their own homes.  
  • Salford Active Walk (BetterPoints Ltd): A behavioural change app which provides evidence-led motivational reward programmes to promote physical activity.
  • Improving Pharmacy Communications in Transition of Care (Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust): An integrated electronic pharmacy referral platform to improve medicines optimisation, reduce wastage and avoid hospital readmissions.
  • Salford CTZN app for Young People (Social Sense Ltd): An app to help young people in Salford to improve self-confidence, self-esteem and encourage strong mental wellbeing.
It was the people behind these innovations that showcased their ideas to our panel of Dragons, very much like the television series. They were allocated a time slot and delivered their best ‘elevator pitch,’ which was then followed by questions from the judges to further determine the potential that each digital innovation offered. Today, each of these innovations is now being piloted as well as undergoing a rigorous evaluation in Salford CCG, and dependent on results, may be commissioned at the end of this phase. 

Our intention to embed an innovation culture within the organisation with a clear innovation infrastructure to expedite processes, decision points and resources is supported by taking such a pioneering approach to identifying and evaluating innovations.

Importantly, it has also removed barriers to innovation. It provides a platform for people with great digital health ideas, and Salford CCG, to work collaboratively and support the transformation of health and social care services.

While it may be a familiar concept in the commercial world, the NHS is just realising its value. Dragons’ Den style programmes offer compelling benefits – reason enough for it to be an attractive option for other senior leaders across healthcare.

Francine Thorpe is director of quality and innovation at Salford Clinical Commissioning Group, a member of NHS Clinical Commissioners. Follow the CCG on Twitter @SalfordCCG 

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