Annual conference looks at tomorrow’s tech that could solve today’s healthcare challenges

Visitors to the South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) annual conference were given a glimpse into the future, featuring driverless transport, virtual reality GP consultations, artificial intelligence, and home assistants that respond to your mood to improve your health and wellbeing.

The conference, on the theme of ‘improving health and care in the South West’, was attended by over 200 people from NHS trusts, care providers, industry and health service commissioners. It was organised by the SW AHSN, one of 15 AHSNs in England which work to improve people’s health and patient experience by supporting the development and take-up of new innovations and quality improvement in health and care.

Dr Jonathon Gray, who recently joined the SW AHSN as its new Chief Executive Officer, introduced the day. He said:

‘We know there are many challenges the NHS and care organisations are facing right now. Money is scarce and we need to be smarter about how we can manage the increasing demands on the healthcare system. Events like this help bring people together to share the great ideas being developed in the region and elsewhere. Working together, we can not only support our health and care colleagues to save more lives, but also to help people live healthier lives.’

Speakers included ‘digital futurist’ Maneesh Juneja, Hazel Stuteley, Director of the Connecting Communities programme at the University of Exeter Medical School, and GP Dr Robert Varnam, Director of General Practice Development with NHS England.

Dr Jonathon Gray added:

‘Maneesh Juneja gave us a taste of what the future could look like. Already in the South West, we are offering primary care services access to mobile ECG devices that use a mobile phone or handheld device to check your heart rhythm and risk of stroke, and we are supporting ground-breaking artificial intelligence work that can accurately assess the likelihood of a person needing to be admitted to hospital in the near future.’

‘Maneesh reminded us that at the heart of healthcare are human relationships. This was echoed by Hazel Stuteley, who explained how she has tapped into the power of communities to transform disadvantaged areas. Dr Robert Varnam spoke of the current crisis in primary care, but also of the simple improvements some practices are making to free up their GPs’ valuable time.’

The event featured a variety of workshops and an ‘innovation marketplace’ with exhibitors from industry, the NHS and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. A ‘drop-in surgery’ was open to give attendees advice on how they can access support from the SW AHSN.

A short film, shot on mobile phones and edited and shown on the day, is available here and all of the presentations are on the SW AHSN website.

These are some of the comments from people who attended the conference:

‘This was the best conference I have attended for a long time; what a joy to be at such an optimistic and positive event.’ Harry Yoxall, Somerset Local Medical Committee

‘A tremendous range of new technologies, new ideas and new possibilities for our future health and care service – a fascinating day.’ Tim Malone, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital

‘A superb opportunity to make meaningful connections with the region.’ Veryan Young, Resonance

The SW AHSN is a membership organisation and welcomes involvement from organisations across the health, care, industry and VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) sectors, who provide health and care services. For more information or to discuss how to get involved, email info@swahsn.com or call 01392 247903.

Here is a short summary of the conference, filmed on mobile phones, and edited and shown on the day.

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