In memory: Paul Wallace

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of Professor Paul Wallace, Health Innovation Network (HIN) South London’s Clinical Director for Digital. Paul passed away on 28 February 2024, following a long period of illness due to prostate cancer.

Paul was internationally recognised for his contributions to health and care at the intersection of clinical practice, academia and implementation science. He leaves behind a legacy of pioneering research into alcohol interventions and digital technologies in primary care, as well as driving forward the standard of evidence for digital health technologies more generally.

Paul originally began working with the HIN as Clinical Director for our alcohol programme. Much of Paul’s research portfolio was centred on the detection and management of alcohol misuse, generating more than 100 papers and book chapters on this topic. His work made particular contributions towards the development, assessment, and distribution of digital applications to reduce alcohol-related harm, being part of the vanguard for the use of digital technologies in this space.

Paul’s most recent role in the HIN began in 2017, when he was appointed Clinical Director for Digital. In the following years he brought his vast knowledge and ambition to bear primarily on DigitalHealth.London’s programmes. Initially Paul helped to assess fledgling technologies and provide advice on their evidence base; over time this focus on evidence grew into a dedicated programme which we now know as the DigitalHealth.London Evidence Generator Bootcamp. Dozens of the UK’s most promising digital health companies have directly benefitted from Paul’s support in navigating the complex yet crucial journey of evidence generation as part of the programme; countless more will indirectly benefit in years to come. Paul has left an enduring mark on Health Innovation Network and DigitalHealth.London, and his influence will live on in our work.

Paul began his professional career in primary care, practicing as a GP in north London for 20 years. He showed an early interest in clinical academia, being awarded a Medical Research Council (MRC) epidemiology training fellowship shortly after completing his specialist medical training. He went on to hold posts at the MRC, Imperial and University College London (UCL). He formerly served as National Primary Care Director for the NIHR Clinical Care Research Networks, as well as contributing to various national working groups on alcohol and acting as a senior advisor to charities Alcohol Concern and Drinkaware.

Paul’s varied and significant contributions to clinical practice and academia were recognised by a number of prestigious awards and appointments over the course of his career. He was Emeritus Professor of Primary Health Care at UCL and a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), which awarded him its President’s Medal in 2013. Paul was also a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians.

In 2012, he co-founded the Foundation for Family Medicine in Palestine. Through the Foundation, Paul has played a major role in developing primary care infrastructure and provision in an area in desperate need.

Paul’s tireless determination to improve the world around him was exemplified by his enthusiasm for work in the final months of his life, helping to shape the latest Evidence Generator Bootcamp alongside playing an integral role in a number of academic projects.

Paul is survived by his wife Sabrina and his children.

“Paul contributed to the HIN over many years, and his passion for evidence generation in innovation was evident through his dedication until the end. He helped design and optimise programmes of support for innovators, and build relationships with partners nationally and internationally that are central to the HIN’s work.”Anna King, Commercial Director, Health Innovation Network South London

Developers of immersive technology for mental health to benefit from £20m investment and Innovator Support Programme

A new supportive ecosystem for UK innovators working on immersive digital mental health therapeutics is being launched.

The UKRI Mindset XR Innovator Support Programme is going to be led by the Health Innovation Network (HIN) South London it was announced today.

The full Mindset extended reality (XR) for digital mental health programme 2022- 2026 is a £20m investment which aims to treat more people with mental health needs by investing in Extended Reality (XR) and other immersive technologies; achieving transformation through the development and scale-up of emerging digital mental health therapies.

Through collaboration with experts across the UK, the HIN will deliver a programme of innovator support including:

  • Creating a networking and information sharing platform for potential collaborators.
  • Providing advice and expert support to existing and future competition applicants.
  • Delivering a programme of outreach and engagement activities to cover the whole of the UK, including the devolved administrations.
  • Facilitating knowledge sharing across a community of practice.
  • Providing tailored support for larger scale industrial research projects and smaller feasibility projects.
  • Delivering a learning package on a range of key topics.
  • Driving the conditions for change through industry-wide and health system-wide roundtables.

The collaboration brings together UK wide reach and a set of complementary skills – service user engagement, clinical research design, regulation and digital therapeutics – critical to address the challenge of bringing immersive tech to our population and staff. As part of the Health Innovation Network, we will collaborate with networks across the country, including Health Innovation North West Coast, Health Innovation South West and Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria. As well as these we will also collaborate with:

  • Hardian Health
  • Hill Dickinson LLP
  • The Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI)
  • King’s College London
  • MQ Mental Health Research
  • XR Health Alliance

Dr Rishi Das-Gupta, CEO of the HIN said: “Immersive technology has the potential to dramatically improve the treatment of those with mental health conditions, which is an area we know has seen increased demand and widening health inequalities.

“Working with Innovate UK and our collaborators across the UK presents an exciting opportunity to make a wide-scale difference.”

Quotes from Partners’ Spokespeople

    Hardian Health

    “Hardian is excited to be working with innovators at the cutting edge of healthtech to ensure that their novel extended and virtual reality devices are as safe, effective and performant as can be when applied across a range of medical purposes. We look forward to stretching the boundaries of what is possible with the Mindset cohort.”

    Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria

    Dr Nicola Hutchinson, CEO of Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria, commented: “We are delighted to be a partner on this important project, which will help to mobilise groundbreaking immersive innovations to address the mental health challenges facing many people in our communities. Through the Mindset programme, we’re looking forward to working with innovators in the immersive technology space in our region to support the development of solutions that will hopefully result in people with mental health needs being treated more quickly through immersive digital mental health therapies.”

    Health Innovation North West Coast

     Dr Phil Jennings, Chief Executive of Health Innovation North West Coast, said: “We’re really excited to be involved in a project that promises to deliver tangible improvements in patient outcomes.

    “The challenges are as acute in our region as anywhere in the country but there’s also an abundance of talent and creativity we can draw on. The Mindset programme will help us bring that creativity to bear on one of our most enduring challenges.”

    Health Innovation South West

    Jon Siddall, Chief Executive Officer of Health Innovation South West, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to build upon the existing novel technologies developed in, and deployed across, the South West to support those with mental health needs. We are working with our partners in the South West to maximise the impact of research and innovation in mental health care. Mindset’s innovative therapeutics offer promising digital solutions to the mental health challenges experienced by people living within our rural and coastal communities, and will enable us to drive a digitally-enabled health and care sector across our Peninsula.”

    Hill Dickinson

    “The Mindset XR Innovator Support Programme will be a brilliant vehicle for innovators to collaborate and develop new and immersive technologies for adoption into everyday healthcare settings. Extended Reality [XR] and similar technologies have the potential to transform our current approach to treating patients accessing mental health services here in the UK. For us as specialist healthtech lawyers it’s incredibly exciting to be a part of that.”  Jamie Foster, Partner, Hill Dickinson


    “In Northern Ireland there is a distinctive mix of capabilities in digital technology and the creative industries, coupled with expertise in mental health research – so we are delighted to partner with Health Innovation Network South London to support the Innovate-UK Mindset XR programme network in this region to support innovators to unleash their potential to forge new collaborations to develop and test XR technology solutions for mental health” Joann Rhodes CEO of HIRANI.

    Innovate UK

    Dr Stella Peace, Executive Director for the Healthy Living and Agriculture Domain at Innovate UK, said: “Fostering collaboration between the immersive technology sector and mental health providers is pivotal to driving innovation to address critical challenges in mental health care. This programme, with its commitment to empowering innovators and providing robust support, will drive business growth by inspiring and unlocking innovations that make life better.”

    King’s College London

    Fiona Gaughran, Professor of Physical Health and Clinical Therapeutics in Psychiatry, King’s College London said: “We are very excited to be part of this innovative collaboration aiming to develop and scale-up new immersive digital mental health technologies. At King’s College London we have a wealth of clinical researchers who bring their patient experience right into the heart of their research to positively impact the lives of people with mental health needs and their families. We are looking forward to sharing our knowledge in this area and providing support and training across the partnership.”

    MQ Mental Health Research

    “MQ is excited to be a capacity development partner, alongside the Health Innovation Network, supporting innovators in the creation of digital therapeutic Extended Reality (XR) solutions in mental health. Specifically, and in line with what MQ stands for and strives to achieve, we look forward to helping these passionate individuals ensure people with lived experience and their needs are at the heart of their innovations and to help them along their pathway to impact.”


    “We desperately need to bring together science, storytelling and innovation to solve some of society’s greatest challenges. The XR Health Alliance are utterly elated be part of the Mindset program, which has the bold goals of doing exactly that. We are particularly excited to be supporting and bringing together a transdisciplinary community of patients, XR creatives, healthcare professionals and researchers to create powerful new solutions for mental health and wellbeing.”

    Notes to Editors

    Hardian health is a clinical digital consultancy helping researchers, industry and investors bring digital solutions to healthcare.

    Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria supports the health and care system to accelerate innovation which improves people’s health and the regional economy.

    It works closely with the NENC ICS and its member organisations, including the NHS Trusts and universities, across the NENC to help them identify, evaluate, adopt and disseminate transformative innovation. It works a lot with industry too, as a source of innovation and also to help industry access the expertise within the NHS that is so crucial to the development, testing and deployment of products and services that are the basis of the UK’s Life Sciences sector.

    Health Innovation North West Coast supports the discovery, development and deployment of innovations and improvements in health and care across Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and South Cumbria.

    The innovations it supports are ideas, services, products and processes which improve health and the quality of care and drive costs down.

    Health Innovation South West is one of 15 Health Innovation Networks set up by NHS England in 2013.

    It exists to help transform the way health and care systems in the South West identify, adopt and spread innovation to transform lives, improve population health, and drive economic growth. Together with its local and national partners it is increasing the impact of research and innovation across the peninsula.

    An international commercial law firm that provides wise counsel and market insight, to not only help deal with the issue at hand, but to help seize opportunities and plan ahead.

    The Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland (HIRANI) was established to strengthen the Life & Health Sciences ecosystem by maintaining a clear vision and strategic direction, and to act as a single voice for the sector with a focus on promoting Life and Health sciences capabilities in Northern Ireland.

    Innovate UK is creating a better future by inspiring, involving and investing in businesses developing life-changing innovations.

    We provide targeted sectors with expertise, facilities and funding to test, demonstrate and evolve their ideas, driving UK productivity and economic growth. Join our network and communities of innovators to realise the potential of your ideas and accelerate business growth.

    King’s College London is an internationally renowned university delivering exceptional education and world-leading research. It is dedicated to driving positive and sustainable change in society and realising its vision of making the world a better place.

    Its vision is to create a world where mental illness is understood, effectively treated and ultimately prevented. With the help of its supporters and a global network of leading scientists, it is championing and funding research into mental health that will change millions of lives.

    The XR Health Alliance is dedicated to the responsible development, investment and adoption of immersive technologies in healthcare. Bridging the gap between industry, research and healthcare to unlock new cross-sector innovation and collaboration.  XRHA aims to share best practice, support and connect inclusive and diverse communities of patients, creators, researchers and healthcare professionals.

    Mental Health

    Want to find out more about our work on Mindset?

    Get in touch

    Reducing restrictive practice: it’s always the right time to make a difference

    Post Title

    Forensic mental health units (sometimes referred to as secure units) provide a vital service in caring for people with severe mental health conditions who may be a risk to the safety of themselves or others.

    Reducing the use of restrictive practices (such as inappropriate physical restraint or rapid tranquilisation) in these units poses a unique set of challenges. In this blog, we hear from HIN Project Manager Ayobola Chike-Michael, Expert by Experience, Igoche Ikwue and Ward Manager Toheeb Bawala about how a recent visit to a forensic ward provided proof that impactful interventions can still be implemented successfully in the face of significant operational pressures.

    This is the latest in a series of reflective blogs about the Health Innovation Network’s involvement in local efforts to reduce restrictive practice based on the findings of a successful pilot led by the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Find links to all our blogs here.


    An integral part of our reducing restrictive practice programme is to visit participating mental health wards to build relationships and support systematic quality improvement.  We have worked with ten wards across our region to enable shared learning, suggesting and supporting change ideas through codesign and coproduction with experts by experience and insights related to health inequalities.

    One of the wards we have visited is Ruby Ward – a 10 bedded, female forensic ward. Although Ruby Ward was not the first mental health ward we have visited, visiting a forensic ward was a unique experience which offered valuable insights into the world of forensic mental health and challenges faced by both staff and service users.

    As expected, there was a high level of security at the ward. This meant we passed through several checkpoints and adhered to strict rules before being allowed access to the unit. The ward itself was clean, well-maintained and staffed by a team of dedicated healthcare professionals led by Toheeb Bawala, the ward manager.

    Delivering high-quality person-centred care on forensic wards is inherently more complex and potentially more challenging than other inpatient settings, and the Ruby Ward team also have to contend with limited physical space (although we were pleased to hear that the ward is moving to a more spacious location) and the current workforce pressures affecting mental health staffing levels. Although many mental health services are experiencing problems with recruitment and retention of staff, forensic units face particular challenges due to the high staff-to-service user ratio required to safely deliver this type of specialist care.

    Despite these difficulties, we immediately noticed that the staff demonstrated a deep understanding of the unique needs and challenges faced by service users and they were committed to providing the best possible care and support.

    We also discussed positive interventions that had worked to reduce restrictive practice in their environment. The ward manager Toheeb talked us through their collaborative daily planning exercises with service users; a simple but highly effective technique which they had found reduced conflict and created a calmer environment for everyone on the ward. Daily, staff engaged with all patients after their breakfast to co-plan their day. This helped staff with planning and gave service users a voice to express their own preferences.

    Although the intervention itself was straightforward, coming to these arrangements needed flexibility on the part of staff to move away from previous protocols (such as more rigid weekly activity planning), working with service users to listen and adapt the approach taken to their care.

    I was grateful to the staff for allowing us to visit at a time when pressures were so high, for showing us that a quality improvement philosophy can still make a difference to outcomes even when teams are exceptionally busy. It also served as a reminder to me of why support from the rest of the system for frontline teams is so important – sharing learnings and helping to catalyse service development.


    My reflections as an expert by experience remain fresh in my mind every day. I keep thinking about the best ways to improve mental health services in a more compassionate and humane way, while also ensuring safety.

    My visit to Ruby Ward felt like diving into the unknown, and from the moment I began the series of security checks to enter, I knew it was different to anywhere we had visited as part of our project so far.

    I believe that walking into such an environment and interacting with members of staff must be done in a person-centred way. My thought process focused on showing more compassion and kindness through communication to demonstrate that we are truly there to support, listen and learn.

    One of the things that struck me was the physical space. We know that having the right physical environment is important for service user recovery and reduces the need for restrictive practice. Well-designed spaces can reduce stress and anxiety, promote social interaction and support a sense of normalcy and autonomy. They can also support the efforts of staff, for example designing clear sight lines throughout the unit so that service users can be monitored and situations can be identified early and de-escalated before restrictive practice becomes the only option.

    Ruby Ward’s current setting included some recreational spaces and a gym, but it also had features that were less than optimal, such as a lack of natural light in some areas. The overall footprint of the unit is fairly small, meaning that personal space for service users could feel limited.

    It was great to hear from Toheeb that the Ward will be moving to a more well-suited location. I am sure that this new space will make a real difference to service users and staff, and I think it is important to reflect on the commitment that it has taken to make this happen. Some interventions can be straightforward to implement – such as the daily planning exercises Ayo has discussed – but others may take months or even years of work to bring to fruition. It is important that we provide the practical support and knowledge required to help teams make changes of all sizes which can improve care.

    My main takeaway from visiting the ward was that quality improvement support needs to be offered in a way which demonstrates kindness and compassion. Services such as forensic units care for extremely vulnerable people who are often very unwell. This is not easy work, especially when combined with external factors such as the shortage of mental health professionals across the NHS. We must recognise that the staff of these wards are striving to do the best they can in challenging circumstances, and that our efforts need to be led by love and humanity if we want to build relationships which will allow us to help them on their journey.


    Ruby Ward is an extremely busy and complex environment to work in. We care for patients who can be very unwell and we operate with greater restrictions than many other services because we must maintain a secure environment.

    As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that the staffing pressures affecting the whole mental health sector have had a particularly pronounced impact on forensic wards like ours.

    Despite these challenges, I am proud of the quality of care we deliver and the spirit in which we deliver it.

    The visit of Ayo and Igoche was a welcome chance to take a step back and gain additional perspective on how we might be able to continue to reduce the use of restrictive practices on our ward. We discussed interventions that had worked in our setting (such as the daily planning exercises) and we also talked about other ideas from the Mental Health Safety Improvement Programme, such as safety crosses.

    Since the visit, our work on reducing restrictive practice has continued on a positive trajectory; there were no uses of restrictive practice in March and April 2023. We have also made positive progress on recruitment, and in the longer term we have a move to a new ward to look forward to.

    Regardless of the setting or service, quality improvement does not happen in theory or in textbooks. It is about making a real difference to real patients. Sometimes that means we must strive to make things better in challenging situations or with limited resources. I hope that our own progress on Ruby Ward helps to remind staff in similar scenarios that with dedication and access to the support, positive progress is always possible.

    Find out more

    Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about our work in quality improvement, mental health or patient safety.

    Contact us

    Transforming Mental Health Care: A Journey to Reduce Restrictive Practices

    A sign showing different ward names


    Post Title

    Restrictive practices are techniques such as physical restraint, seclusion and rapid tranquilisation used to limit a person’s liberties, movements or freedom to act independently in potentially dangerous situations.

    The inappropriate or overuse of restrictive practice in mental health services has been identified as an area of concern in healthcare since at least 2015, and our ongoing work to reduce restrictive practices was highlighted as part of our celebration of World Patient Safety Day in September.

    Following on from her visit to an acute female psychiatric ward in August, HIN Patient Safety Project Manager Ayobola Chike-Michael visited Tolworth Hospital’s Jasmines Ward in South West London to see how they are working to reduce restrictive practices and create a compassionate and supportive environment for all patients.

    In the ever-evolving landscape of mental health care, the Mental Health Safety Improvement Programme has been making significant strides since its inception in 2021. With a strong focus on reducing restrictive practices, the programme aims to reduce occurrences of physical restraints, seclusion, and rapid tranquilisation across participating wards. During my visit to Tolworth Hospital's Jasmines Ward in South West London, I had the opportunity to meet Hannah McCarthy, the new ward manager, and gain valuable insights into their innovative approach to care. The commitment and dedication of the Jasmines Ward staff to create a safe and compassionate environment were evident from the moment I stepped in.

    Jasmines ward, a 16-bed mental health ward for older adults presented a unique set of challenges and requirements. A large proportion of the patients on the ward are living with dementia. While incidents of restrictive practices were explained to me as rare due to the frailty and older nature of the patients, the ward manager and her team seem prepared to handle any situation that might arise. The staff focus on providing personalised care, ensuring everyone’s needs were met. One notable practice was the "This is me" profile on the door of each patient, fostering a sense of identity and promoting a person-centered approach acknowledging each individual’s cultural and family background, as well as their interests and achievements.

    The success of Jasmines Ward in providing comprehensive care can be attributed to its robust Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). Comprising of doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, a dietician, an activity coordinator, an exercise therapist, the pharmacist and, upon request, visits from a chiropodist. The MDT works seamlessly to address the diverse needs of the patients. This collaborative approach ensures that the care provided is holistic, focusing not only on mental health but on physical wellbeing too.

    The team working on Jasmines Ward recognises the importance of maintaining the dignity and pride of their patients, even during moments of potential restraint. Incidences of restrictive practice are handled sensitively, ensuring safety whilst minimising distress.

    Like any healthcare setting, Jasmines Ward faces its own set of challenges; ensuring staff have time and are trained to lead on person-centred care remains a priority. To address this issue the ward is actively seeking long-term solutions; a recent recruitment drive has been successful and the ward are expecting the arrival of five new nurses to join the team in the near future. Flexibility with shifts and a focus on work-life balance are expected to create a more sustainable and fulfilling work environment.

    The Mental Health Safety Improvement Programme has introduced several tools to monitor and track restrictive practices effectively. One such tool, the safety cross, is a simple visual representation that enables staff to identify patterns at a glance

    In addition to their existing use for falls, the ward is encouraged to also implement safety crosses specifically for restrictive practices. This tool has proven invaluable in other participating wards to shape discussions around frequency of restrictive practices, de-escalation techniques, and proactive interventions.

    Stepping into Jasmines Ward, I was greeted by a fast-paced atmosphere catering for patients’ needs constantly. Each patient's door bore a simple profile, offering a personal touch that goes a long way in making patients feel comfortable. The ward faces challenges related to the space available, particularly around storage, but despite this the staff remain dedicated to finding solutions and putting patient well-being at the centre of everything they do.

    Image of a poem about Jasmines Ward

    Jasmines Ward recognises the importance of feedback from service users and their carers. Verbal feedback is consistently positive, and I was shown an example of handwritten feedback that further exemplified the impact of the compassionate care provided.

    A poignant poem displayed on the ward about dementia served as a reminder to both staff and visitors about the ongoing need for kindness and empathy towards patients.

    Using the poem as an active reminder and not just part of the wallpaper would be part of my advice to pass on. I believe with their multidisciplinary approach, dedication to feedback, and continuous drive for improvement, Jasmines Ward will remain dedicated to reducing restrictive practices.

    Find out more

    Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about our work in quality improvement, mental health or patient safety.

    Contact us