NHS Opening Doors for Digital Innovators in the South West

In November 2016, NHS England Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh revealed the eight health innovations joining the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) in year two of the programme. This follows the programme launch in 2015, when 17 innovations were selected and supported with their roll out across over 400 NHS organisations, benefiting millions of NHS patients. One of the new Fellows, Dr Craig Newman, is based in the South West and will be supported by the South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN).

Craig is a Senior Research Fellow and Lead for Mobile Health Innovation at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. He also works as a Clinical Psychologist in the NHS. His innovation is the Epilepsy Self Monitor (EpSMon), a free epilepsy risk management tool, developed with partners Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust and Oxfordshire-based charity SUDEP Action.

The EpSMon app will enable patients to monitor their well-being and know when to seek medical support, a behaviour change which could lead to a reduction in the number of deaths of people with epilepsy.  Epilepsy costs the UK £1.5 billion per year and is one of the top 10 causes of death for those under the age of 70 and the third main cause of maternal deaths in the UK. This preventative tool could have a significant impact on the personal and financial costs of epilepsy through reductions in deaths and decrease in A&E appointments.

Through the NIA, Craig will receive support from England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks, including the SW AHSN, whilst enhancing his knowledge of the commissioning environment in order to promote EpSMon and mobile health to become part of standard clinical practice. He said: “EpSMon will allow epilepsy patients to monitor their risk in between visits to doctors. It will remind them of the importance of taking medication correctly and seeing their GP on a regular basis.”

Stuart Monk, Interim Director of Innovation at the SW AHSN said: “The NIA has a rigorous evidence-based selection process, selecting the best innovations and innovators for further support to help push NHS spread and adoption. The AHSN network can use its system knowledge at regional level to spread and adopt innovation at pace and scale across the UK. We are really excited to be part of the NIA programme in the South West and look forward to supporting Craig and the other eight innovations that have the capability to demonstrate tangible benefits for patients.”

The first year of the NIA programme saw South Devon and Torbay become one of the country’s first Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) to implement a digital recommendation tool – HealthUnlocked Local.

The new service provides individuals with a social prescription based on their long-term condition and location through a widget embedded into NHS websites, including GP practices. The digital tool provides a gateway to tailored information and support available in the local area from the NHS, social care, charities and voluntary sector, alongside free peer to peer and expert support on relevant HealthUnlocked online communities.

Matt Jameson Evans, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of HealthUnlocked said: “Working with CCGs we are firmly placing technology into a navigator role for people, where they have the tools to access support and information directly. By bringing together the mountain of health and social care service information available, with expertise from patient organisations and expert patients we are positively changing health outcomes for millions of local people.”

Paul Hurrell, Head of Innovation at South Devon & Torbay CCG said: “As a company, HealthUnlocked was a pleasure to work with and really supported the implementation of the technology in our region. HealthUnlocked Local will play a critical role in creating a system in which our population has the skills, knowledge and confidence to self-manage and to become more active in relation to their physical and mental health. We are delighted that HealthUnlocked is now benefiting patients from across South Devon and Torbay”.

HealthUnlocked is the world’s leading social health network, attracting over four million visits a month across 600 health and wellbeing online communities. The company was also named in the Deloitte 50 fastest growing technology companies in the UK 2016.

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