DigitalHealth.London Accelerator opens for applications

DigitalHealth.London Accelerator opens for applications today

Call-out for the next generation of digital innovation to transform health and care

Digital products and services are currently providing vital innovation, support and capacity to the NHS during the response to Covid-19. Today, DigitalHealth.London opens applications to their flagship Accelerator programme for the next generation of digital health companies to transform health and care.

Now in its fifth consecutive year, the NHS-delivered programme, funded in part by the European Regional Development Fund, has supported some of the biggest and most effective digital innovations being used by the NHS in London. Companies including LIVIPatchwork HealthEchoSweatcoinHealth Navigator and Perfect Ward have all been through the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme. From enabling remote GP appointments, to transforming NHS temporary staffing and patient-facing self-management apps, the Accelerator has supported some of the best digital innovations now being widely used. Whilst the health and care system is under pressure like never before, the need for innovations to solve problems both today and in the future remains vital.

To date, the Accelerator has supported 105 innovative digital health companies, with 160 additional NHS contracts signed by those companies. For every £1 spent on the programme, it is estimated over £14 is saved for the NHS*.

Sara Nelson, Programme Director, DigitalHealth.London Accelerator, said: “Never before has the need for the right digital innovations to be delivering for our NHS and patients been so profound.  Digital health products are introducing new ways of doing things and enabling key services to continue where they might otherwise have been cancelled or postponed. We are extremely proud of the companies and NHS organisations we have worked with over the past five years. Today, we are excited to accept applications for the next cohort of innovators. With the growing need for safe and effective digital innovations, we are looking forward to working with innovators and the many NHS staff and patients across London’s health and care sector who have recently been inspired by technology and its potential.”

Anna King, Commercial Director, Health Innovation Network, one of the founding partners of DigitalHealth.London said: “The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme remains one of the most influential programmes of its kind, supporting fast-growing, high-potential digital health businesses. It is also helping London establish its place as one of the most exciting and innovative digital health and care hubs in the world, with scope to develop, validate and scale innovations. I’d urge any digital health innovator who has a product or service that could support the NHS to consider joining this programme.”

Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, said: “I am delighted to continue to support the Accelerator as it opens for applications again, and I am looking forward to the next group of innovators bringing their products and services to Londoners. The programme’s work ensures that London is at the forefront of digital innovation and is vital to building a future where its citizens benefit from the latest technologies to support their health.”

Tara Donnelly, Chief Digital Officer, NHSX, said: “The DigitalHealth.London Accelerator is part of a digital revolution in the NHS that continues rapidly to develop, and we will continue to support innovative organisations delivering ground-breaking work.

“This programme has established itself as an important player in supporting the NHS and social care to make the most of the opportunities digital health tech offers.”

Anas Nader, Co-Founder, Patchwork Health, Accelerator programme 2019-20, said: “We’re so proud of how widely our technology has already been embraced across the NHS and the impact we’re having on the lives of thousands of clinicians. We were delighted to join the 2019-20 cohort of DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator, a brilliant programme speeding up adoption of digital health innovations in the NHS. The programme has provided us with opportunities to connect with industry experts as well as other health tech innovators. I’d encourage companies like ours with good ideas and big ambitions to apply.”

Joachim Werr, CEO, Health Navigator, Accelerator programme 2018-19, said: “The most valuable thing we experienced on the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator programme was the connections made with executives and decision makers within NHS organisations, and with central NHS policy makers, for example in NHS England and NHS improvement. Our NHS Navigator, combined with the expertise within the Accelerator’s network, have helped us reach the people that can make change happen in the NHS. We’d like to wish all companies applying good luck in what is a hugely competitive and valuable programme.”

DigitalHealth.London’s Accelerator aims to speed up the adoption of technology in London’s NHS, relieving high pressure on services and empowering patients to manage their health. It works with up to 20 high-potential SMEs over a 12-month period, giving bespoke support and advice, a programme of expert-led workshops and events and brokering meaningful connections between innovators and NHS organisations with specific challenges. The companies that are successful in getting onto the Accelerator programme are chosen through a rigorous and highly competitive selection process, involving expert NHS and industry panel assessments, interviews and due diligence checks. Companies that have a product or solution that is well-defined and are ready to start building their evidence base are likely to benefit the most from the type of support offered through the programme. Throughout the 12 months, the programme focuses on engagement with different elements of the health and care system. Company suitability is assessed based both on product maturity (meaning products that are ready to be trailed or bought that have high potential to meet NHS challenges) and on the company’s capacity to benefit from the programme (meaning companies have enough time and staff to engage).

For more information and how to apply, click here.

Share this Post

Don’t talk to me about savings – my innovation saves lives

Don’t talk to me about savings – my innovation saves lives

Patient safety and benefits are paramount when assessing new innovations, but commissioners need to understand the financial benefits too. Here Lesley Soden, Programme Director of Innovation at Health Innovation Network, explains how innovators can make sure they have a robust case by gathering the right data and accessing the right support.

Picture the scene: you’re promoting the ground-breaking clinical benefits of your innovation to a potential NHS customer, but the conversation quickly turns to questions about savings and ensuring a return on investment. This topic soon overpowers the discussion, and everything you had prepared on improving patient care or helping health professionals do their jobs better is forgotten. You’re left feeling perplexed about the NHS customer’s priorities and your own responsibility to the system.

The bottom line is that every NHS provider and commissioner will have a year-on-year savings target, usually between two per cent and nine per cent. To put this into context, for a specialist hospital with a £200 million budget, even just a two per cent savings target would be £4 million. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested in hearing about the workforce or patient safety improvement potential of your innovation. It does mean that they also need to see how you will help them save that cold hard cash.
How you can help
It’s imperative that you can prove your return on investment, or ROI, as well as talk about the system benefits of your idea. And the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Your ROI can be based on a number of factors, such as incident rates, patient or staff satisfaction rates, length of stay, emergency re-admission rates, infection rates, A&E waits, etc., all of which can offer an overall financial benefit to the NHS provider. While there is typically a lot to consider, the good news is that there is funding available from bodies such as the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research), Innovate UK or health charities to pay a university or health economist for ROI expertise.

Your ROI must not only be more appealing than similar options available on the market; it must also be impressive against cost-saving innovations in other categories.

But what does ‘return on investment’ actually mean? Put simply, ROI means that the financial benefits associated with the investment are greater than the costs incurred. For example, Locum’s Nest, the digital app that allows doctors to book and get paid for additional shifts, identified that one Trust recorded savings of £1.3 million in its opening 10 months after adopting the app. The cost of implementing the system was significantly less than this figure, giving a clear return on the finances and time invested by the Trust.
 
Articulating the benefits
This example clearly demonstrates a direct benefit, but there are a number of indirect ones that can be used to illustrate return on investment as well. In healthcare, these are often calculated in productivity, or the time saved by clinicians with which they can treat more patients and reduce delays in a patient’s pathway through the hospital, the cost saving of which can be inferred. For example, the use of the Infinity ePortering solution at Northwick Park Hospital, which coordinated approximately 9,000 requests for porters to transport patients and equipment each month, reduced the average request-completion time by six minutes, saving the hospital indirect financial costs of over 10,000 hours in productivity time per year[1]. Other indirect benefits can be factors such as staff satisfaction, which are qualified through an increase in staff retention and, therefore, reduced recruitment costs.

As seen in these examples, good ROI analysis measures an innovation’s efficiency in terms of the expected benefit flow, whether direct or indirect. It should not be confused with “budget impact analysis”, which is an economic assessment used to calculate the actual cost of specific resources and equipment required to adopt and implement an innovation or service. Being able to effectively communicate the value of both direct and indirect ROIs is one of the most important skills any innovator for the health and care system can develop.
 
Understanding your audience
It’s important to remember that the benefits associated with an investment are not always measurable in a direct cash return to the investor. The value could be identified in terms of improved population health, the resulting decrease in demand on health services and an increase in system-wide savings. These can be more complicated ROIs to demonstrate, because the savings may not be immediately felt by the part of the system you are asking to implement your innovation. Convincing a commissioner to pay for something that they will not directly see a financial return on is not as straightforward a task. For example, asking a hospital to pay for an innovation that supports early patient discharge might seem like an obvious win for the trust, but in reality, the savings generated would directly benefit the commissioner, not the hospital itself. In these instances, you need to highlight the benefits to all parties. For the hospital, this could be freeing up bed capacity, resulting in an increased number of elective operations, which would generate an income for them.

Your ROI must not only be more appealing than similar options available on the market; it must also be impressive against cost-saving innovations in other categories. For example, a Board might decide, rather than choosing between two digital innovations capable of reducing temporary staff agency costs, to simply pay for online infection-control training in order to reduce infection spread rates among staff. Your innovation must be able to demonstrate a better return on investment than all other options, too.

Being able to effectively communicate the value of both direct and indirect ROIs is one of the most important skills any innovator for the health and care system can develop.

Calculating your ROI
A financial ROI is calculated through a cost-benefit ratio, which is the cost of an innovation divided by its benefits. This is often represented as an estimated value generated for every £1 spent on the intervention. The ROI value should be greater than every £1 spent to show a good return on investment.

For example, Public Health England’s 2017 report[2] on the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions showed that ESCAPE-Pain, an MSK prevention programme, had an ROI of £5.20, which is a great return for every £1 spent on the intervention. This demonstrates to commissioners and providers that the intervention of commissioning ESCAPE-Pain will generate a financial ROI.

Another example of a good cost-benefit ratio can be seen in SecurAcath, which secures percutaneous catheters in position on the skin, reducing the need for frequent catheter replacement or reattachment. In a comparison study against the use of a similar device, they found that SecurAcath decreased costs in catheter replacement by £17,952, as SecurAcath resulted in a 0% catheter replacement rate compared to 5.9 per cent for the other device in the same year it was implemented.

The most attractive cost-benefit ratios promise in-year savings, meaning that commissioners don’t have to wait a long time to reap the rewards of their investment.

However, don’t be dissuaded if your idea is more of a long burn. There is a focus in the NHS Long Term plan on keeping people well for longer, and whilst people prefer quick wins – don’t we all – it’s not a guarantee that you will get rejected if you can’t promise a short-term return. In this instance, your ROI analysis could focus on the cost of preventing diseases and conditions in contrast to the cost of treating these conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease or diabetes).

Getting support
 If you are piloting your innovation within a health or social care service, you don’t just need to work out your costs; you also need to understand the current system data you’re claiming to be an improvement upon. You might be asked by a service lead to help identify the baseline data at the start of the pilot, and this data is contingent upon how your innovation will impact the service.

Normally, a provider will have key monthly performance indicators (KPIs) that are reported to their commissioners and their Trust Board in aggregated data. This could be measured in things like the number of face-to-face patient contacts, waiting times or staff agency costs. The piloting of an innovation within a specific service may require the running of tailored data reports for these KPIs to provide valuable baseline information.

A service lead will request that their internal informatics / business intelligence teams run these reports, as they are the only people in the company who are allowed access to that level of data. You will, then, receive this report from a business intelligence employee to build up your knowledge of the current system data. The request for data reports is often overlooked by innovators and makes it difficult to maximise the pilot benefit outside of a specific site if the right evidence is not generated.

Evidencing the ROI of your innovation is often challenging and costly. However, it could be money well spent if this evidence leads to paid contracts. There are several options available:

  1. Do the work in-house. It should be reasonably straightforward for you to provide estimations of savings based on the improvements or outcomes your innovation has achieved in health care settings. You could use data that is readily available such as:
  • Number of bed days that your innovation has saved (e.g. by avoiding admission or reducing planned admissions). This can be quantified by the cost of an NHS bed per day.
  • Staffing hours saved by the innovation and the associated benefits (e.g. efficiencies, more patient-facing time, reducing unpaid overtime, more effective management of follow-up appointments or reducing DNAs).
  • Better management of medicines, which leads to a reduction in medicines being prescribed.
  • Prevention of deterioration through early diagnosis or better management and the savings associated with reducing the risk.
  1. Find a masters student. Many masters students will be up for taking on your research as part of their dissertation project. Specifically targeting universities that have students from relevant health economics or data science backgrounds or who are specializing in the same area as the product (e.g. a physiotherapist) is a good place to start.
  2. Commission an external and impartial consultancy. The outcome of which should be a robust piece of work that clearly demonstrates the ROI. Some AHSNs provide this service.

 

Conclusion
It would be great if innovations were only assessed on the patient benefit, but unfortunately, the NHS doesn’t have a bottomless purse. And neither should it. That absolutely doesn’t mean that patient safety isn’t of the upmost importance, it just can’t be the only deciding factor. Make it easy for commissioners and NHS providers to  see the value – both financial and otherwise – of your innovation by making sure you start with a robust baseline, gathering the right data during any pilots, looking out for funding opportunities and working with your local universities to access masters or PhD students who are keen to undertake your health economics study.

 

 

For more guidance on understanding health economics and how to calculate an ROI, check out these resources:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/health-economics-a-guide-for-public-health-teams

https://www.weahsn.net/toolkits-and-resources/quality-improvement-tools-2/more-quality-improvement-tools/return-on-investment-roi/
 

References
[1] https://infinity.health/eportering/

[2] Return on Investment of Interventions for the Prevention and Treatment of Musculoskeletal Conditions (PHE, 2017)

Share this Post

The AI in Health and Care Award: accelerating testing and evaluation of the most promising AI technologies

The AI in Health and Care Award: accelerating testing and evaluation of the most promising AI technologies

The AHSN Network welcomes the launch of the new Artificial Intelligence (AI) Health and Care Award. This will make £140 million available over three years to accelerate the testing and evaluation of the most promising AI technologies that meet the strategic aims set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

The Award is run by the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), of which the AHSN Network is a key member, in partnership with NHSX and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Guy Boersma, AHSN Network Digital & AI Executive Lead, commented: “We welcome the launch of this new fund to fast track the implementation of the most promising AI innovation into frontline care.

“It is an exciting development following the publication of our AI State of Nation report, supporting the creation of the Code of Conduct and now contributing to the distribution of funding to accelerate testing and evaluation of AI technologies.

“AI has the potential to address the many challenges impacting services today, such as those around workforce and the ageing population. As part of the Accelerated Access Collaborative, the AHSN Network looks forward to supporting this programme through the adoption and spread of AI across our strong research and innovation network.”

About the AI in Health and Care Award

The Award will support technologies across the spectrum of development: from initial feasibility and conception through to initial NHS adoption and testing of the AI technology within clinical pathways.
Initially, it will focus on four key areas: screening, diagnosis, decision support and improving system efficiency.

The AI Award is part of the £250 million funding given by the Department for Health and Social Care to NHSX to establish an AI Lab aimed at improving the health and lives of patients. The Award forms a key part of the AAC’s ambition to establish a globally leading testing infrastructure for innovation in the UK.

A call for applications for the Award will run at least twice a year through an open competition to identify appropriate AI technologies for support into the NHS.

The call for applications for the first Award is now open. A second call will be launched in summer this year.

First competition – application information

The application process for the first competition opened on 28 January 2020 and closes at 1.00pm on 4 March 2020. Applicants will be able to identify which phase they should apply for using the self-assessment criteria. Full details are available here.

Support from the AHSNs
Innovators interested in applying for the AI in Health and Care Award are encouraged to talk to their regional AHSN for advice and support. Find your nearest AHSN on our Innovation Exchange digital gateway here.

AI Event – 3 February 2020
The Accelerated Access Collaborative, NHSX and NIHR are holding an AI Event in London on 3 February. This will provide information about opportunities and support available to AI innovators and technologies at all stages of development.
Come to the event to find out more about the most recent developments and upcoming opportunities, hear about the experience of an SME developing an AI product in the NHS, and find out about organisations such as the AHSNs that can support collaborations. In addition, there will be the opportunity for networking and establishing new connections.
Book your place here.

Webinars

A series of webinars are being organised to provide more information to potential applicants:

Initial information session: 31 January 2020, 11-12.00 Join here
Applicant Webex: 4 February 2020, 11:00-12:00 Join here
Applicant Webex: 11 February 2020, 11:00-12:00 Join here
Applicant Webex: 18 February 2020, 11:00-12:00 Join here
Applicant Webex: 25 February 2020, 11:00-12:00 Join here

Share this Post

 

Latest innovation projects set to improve care for south Londoners revealed

Latest innovation projects set to improve care for south Londoners revealed

Ten NHS teams, working with universities and a wide range of partners, have been given vital funding to kickstart innovation projects designed to help health and care teams improve care for south Londoners and help services evolve to meet future health needs. The funding comes from the Health Innovation Network Innovation Grants, which have been announced today.

The innovations that will receive support to spread or be piloted range from apps for women in pregnancy to understand the risk of preterm birth or manage diabetes, to new devices to detect dangerous bleeding, to virtual reality on acute mental health wards to reduce stress and new ways to access mental health support that improve access while taking pressure off primary care. One of the projects will also develop mobile simulation labs for the NHS to test and improve technology.

All of the innovations meet current NHS and care needs – whether by addressing major health challenges such as diabetes, mental health and stroke prevention, or specifically helping the NHS to meet nationwide goals on safety or the NHS Long Term Plan.

Each project has been given up to £10,000 in funding. Small amounts of funding can be crucial for innovation projects to become a reality. NHS teams often struggle to find the initial funding to pilot new ideas in real-world settings to demonstrate the kind of results they need for support for wider roll outs. Academic Health Science Networks like the Health Innovation Network play a crucial role by helping these projects prove themselves in real world settings before going on to spread across the NHS where successful.

The winners were chosen after a rigorous selection process from an expert panel. In total 68 applications were received, with ten selected to receive funding.

Zoe Lelliott, Chief Executive at the Health Innovation Network, said:

“When it comes to innovation we have no shortage of great ideas in the NHS. What we often lack is the initial finance needed to get a new idea off the ground, and to generate evidence of outcomes so that others will support the project. The projects we’re supporting today are truly exceptional and stood out to us as highly innovative approaches that meet pressing health and care needs. We’re looking forward to working with these teams to turn these ideas into real benefits for local people.”

Dr Lindsey Bezzina, Junior Clinical Fellow, Emergency Medicine, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who has won an award to develop visible electronic queues in hospital emergency departments to improve patient experience and reduce pressure on staff, said:

“We are passionate about trying new ways to improve patient experience and safety and we believe better queue visibility will give patients reassurance and free up reception team time. Emergency departments are pressured and all you want is to do the best for patients. It’s difficult at the moment when we can’t easily answer their top question: when will I be seen? With relatively simple technology we believe we can answer this and make a huge difference to their experience, as well as supporting our staff. Technology and innovation will allow us to answer this and more. We’re well supported by our colleagues and leaders to innovate and try new ideas: this funding is additional piece of the puzzle we need to propel our project to the next level.”

Dr. Nicola Jones, a GP and Chair of Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Group, whose team has won an award for mass screening in Wandsworth to prevent strokes and reduce health inequalities, said:

“The people of Wandsworth can look forward to a new and innovative local approach to stroke prevention. At the moment, over a third of people invited for a health check do not attend. We’re using this funding to kickstart an innovative new collaboration between Wandsworth community leaders and the health service, working hand-in-hand with local groups to get our services to those who need them most. By targeting hard-to-reach communities we will reduce health inequalities and we expect this award to be the first step in developing a new approach to screening that will benefit the communities we serve.”

The ten teams will be supported by the Health Innovation Network over a 12 month period to develop their ideas and pilot them in south London.

The winning projects receiving support to expand, pilot or develop further are:

1. Diabetes Prevention Decathlon, South West London Health and Care Partnership

2. Engage Consult – Digital Self-Referral for MSK, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust

3. ‘Mass screening!’ – an innovative healthcare delivery approach to stroke prevention in high risk, hard to reach communities in Wandsworth through ‘Stroke Busting Health Checks’ in local places of worship and community networks, Wandsworth CCG

4. Creating a toolkit for effective implementation of the QUiPP app, King’s College London & Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust

5. Transforming delivery of antenatal care in gestational diabetes, Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

6. CRADLE Scale up South London: Effect of a novel shock index early warning system on recognition and management of the compromised bleeding woman,
King’s College London & Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust

7. Improving Patient and Staff Experience and Safety with Queue Management Software in the Emergency Department, St George’s Universitys Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

8. Simulation Lab for Health Technology Development and Adoption: Discovery project, Oxleas NHS

9. Lewisham Primary Care Recovery College Pilot Project, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

10. Virtual reality relaxation and coping skills for reducing stress and challenging behaviour on acute psychiatric wards, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Improving Patient and Staff Experience and Safety with Queue Management Software in the Emergency Department

Improving patient and staff experience and safety with queue management software in the emergency department

Visible queue management software in the emergency department at-a-glance

Visible electronic queues in hospital emergency departments to improve patient experience and reduce pressure on staff.
The desire to use techonology to reduce pressure on emergency department reception teams and improve patient experience and safety.
• Better patient experience in Emergency Departments.
• Improvements in staff experience in Emergency Departments.
• Fewer interruptions for busy reception staff, with knock-on efficieny benefits and a reduction in complaints about behaviour related to wait time information.
• Greater transparency and education around the complexity of wait times in Emergency Departments.

Visible queuing: a game changer in hospital emergency departments

HIN Innovation Grants will fund an innovative project to improve patient experience in the Emergency Department at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

This project will pilot a visible electronic queue management system so that patients can see where they are in the queue to be seen at any time. The team is understood to be among the first in the UK to introduce this.

The new system aims to improve patient experience and reduce the time receptionists in the Emergency Department at St George’s spend dealing with waiting time or queue position queries. Staff in Emergency Departments around the country deal with a high volume of these questions which can have a knock-on delay in booking-in new patients.

The idea for the new system came from junior doctor Dr Lindsey Bezzina who worked in the Emergency Department for a year and witnessed the problems reception teams and other staff encounter first-hand when it comes to waiting times queries. Currently, a whiteboard behind the reception desk is used to display general waiting times and updated every hour. Lack of visibility of individual positions in the queue can cause concern for patients, who can worry that they have been forgotten, passed over or missed their call to see the emergency team. This leads to repeated queries to reception staff about the waiting time and these queries are not always easy to answer due to the complexity of queues. As well as frustration for patients, these queries can occasionally result in aggressive and abusive behaviours which put additional pressure on staff.

The new system will offer people a code when they first arrive and register their details. This code will correspond with a number shown on an electronic screen, showing where the number is in the queue. The display will be visible from all parts of the waiting room and will make clear that there are multiple queues at any one time and that if someone arrives who needs more urgent care, the queue positions will move accordingly.

This means patients will be able to monitor their own position and progress in the queue, which provides assurance that they have not been missed or forgotten, reducing anxiety as well as the likelihood of aggression directed towards other patients or staff. The transparency the system will offer has the potential to educate people waiting about the multiple queues in operation at any one time, aiding understanding about the way Emergency Departments operate and why some people are seen more quickly.

The grant awarded will be used toward developing and implementing the queue management software in the Emergency Departments department. If this innovative pilot is successful and adopted as business as ususal, the software can be spread and adopted by other NHS emergency departments. There is also an opportunity for use of this system in outpatient departments at a later stage.

Find out more about our work in patient experience


Innovator Spotlight

Dr Lindsey Bezzina, Junior Clinical Fellow, Emergency Medicine, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

“We are passionate about trying new ways to improve patient experience and safety and we believe better queue visibility will give patients reassurance and free up reception team time.

“Emergency departments are pressured and all you want is to do the best for patients. It’s difficult at the moment when we can’t easily answer their top question: when will I be seen? With relatively simple technology we believe we can make a huge difference to their experience and support staff at the same time by reducing interruptions. Greater transparency over the complex queues we operate will help everyone gain a greater understanding of how teams are working to help people.”

Share this Post

Virtual reality relaxation and coping skills for reducing stress and challenging behaviour on acute psychiatric wards

Virtual reality relaxation and coping skills for reducing stress and challenging behaviour on acute psychiatric wards

Virtual reality on the wards at-a-glance

Virtual reality headsets with relaxing scenarios introduced to six wards to reduce stress and anxiety in service users with complex and serious mental health needs
Research has shown that virtual reality has enormous potential to aid relaxation and improve outcomes. The team was inspired by pioneering work in the Netherlands using virtual reality with outpatients and wants to pilot this approach with inpatients in south London.
• Reduced anxiety and stress, helping people to manage their mental health conditions.
• Reduced levels of stress and challenging behaviour on wards.
• Better environment for both service users and staff.
• Fewer incidents of challenging behaviour and a positive effect on reducing staff stress and burn-out.
• Reduction in the need for seclusion.
• Parity of esteem, ensuring that mental health service users benefit from the latest technology.


Virtual reality on acute wards to help people with complex mental health conditions

Service users on psychiatric wards often report high levels of stress and difficulties regulating emotions, which can lead to violence and aggression toward staff and others. A team at South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust plans to address this through pioneering use of virtual reality.

Funded by the HIN Innovation Grants, this project aims to evaluate the implementation of a new virtual reality (VR) technology, VRelax, to reduce stress and arousal in service users with complex mental health conditions. The VR headsets allow people to experience calming and relaxing environments. Previously, the NHS typically asked people to think of positive mental imagery, which requires more concentration and imagination and can be challenging to sustain. Virtual reality will give people the chance to feel immersed in a more calming environment.

The team will introduce 12 new VRelax headsets and assess their effectiveness in reducing service user stress and associated risks (violence, aggression and seclusion) on six acute psychiatric wards within SLaM. VRelax consists of 360 degree videos of calm, natural environments. This includes a scuba diving experience with wild dolphins, a sunny meadow in the Alps, a coral reef, a drone flight, a sunny mountain meadow with animals, a guided mindfulness meditation on the beach or a wide range of other options, all shown in a VR headset. The team will train the nursing staff on the software and nurses will then be able to decide how and when to offer this to their patients, as an additional option that complements existing relaxation techniques.

Heightened stress reactivity is not good for individuals: it’s related to recurrence of mood, anxiety as well as psychotic disorders and it’s not good for staff or ward environments: difficulties regulating emotions can increase risk of violence and aggression, which put both service users and staff at risk. This can result in seclusion being necessary, with isolation potentially increasing service user stress and costs. A previous randomised cross-over trial of VRelax with 50 psychiatric outpatients showed strong immediate effects on stress level, and on negative and positive mood states. The team at SLaM wants to bring these promising findings to service users on acute wards in the UK.

In addition to improving care for service users, VR has the potential to have a real impact on the overall ward environment. By reducing stress and anxiety, the project hopes to reduce violence and aggression. This will create a better environment for both staff and service users.
The project has collaboration at its heart. The team will link three main institutions – SLaM, University Hospital Lewisham, King’s College London and University Medical Center Groningen, in the Netherlands.

Find out more about our work in mental health


Innovator Spotlight

Dr Simon Riches, Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said:

“At a relatively low cost, this technology could have a major impact on the ward environment and the people in our care. Service users will have the chance to feel immersed in a more calming environment, meaning that both staff and service users can benefit from reduced levels of stress and challenging behaviour.

“We’ve brought a lot of people together for the project who are very passionate about digital health, including international colleagues. It’s still very new and the opportunity to collaborate on this emerging area of research is exciting.”

Dr Freya Rumball, Clinical Psychologist, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“There is strong evidence that relaxation and grounding techniques can have a positive impact on stress and anxiety, and we will be among the first teams to test this exciting new technology on acute wards in SLaM. Our pilot will advance the evidence base and we are keen to disseminate our findings as widely as possible.

“Innovating in the NHS can be challenging, as it can be hard to find the time to think about things from a fresh perspective. However, we’re really passionate about bringing new technology to the forefront of our clinical work and are actively supported in this by our management and leadership.”

Share this Post

Innovation Exchange – the digital innovations transforming the NHS

Innovation Exchange – the digital innovations transforming the NHS

As part of London Tech Week, Health Innovation Network and DigitalHealth.London Accelerator partnered with DAC Beachcroft and NHS Improvement to deliver an Innovation Exchange evening at the Wallbrook Building.

At the event, NHS leaders from across the health system, came together to learn about the innovative digital solutions that are already helping trusts across the country to tackle current NHS workforce challenges and discuss the challenges of implementation, interoperability and cost. Attendees included; HR directors from Acute & Mental Health Trusts around London, Borough Councils as well as representatives from national bodies such as Care Quality Commission CQC, NHS England & NHS Improvement.

The overwhelming response to the information shared was encouraging, but also very timely. The recently published Interim People Plan highlighted the important role that digital will have to play to help the NHS combat the current workforce crisis, particularly in relation to productivity.

But digital transformation can be difficult when you consider challenges with costs, planning and implementation. As well as showcasing some of the solutions available right now, discussions were centred around what cultural change is needed to find and uptake digital solutions. A key point that was raised is interoperability – new innovations must be able to work seamlessly with existing systems for compliance and adoption to happen.

And as is always the case with any discussion around digital, the question of how automating services will affect patient care was raised. Workforce shortages are a fact of the NHS and while not all services can be automated, using AI to support the workforce in areas such as rotas and training will help clinicians spend more time on delivering better patient care.

As well as looking to the future, a series of innovations that are already transforming NHS services, by saving money, time and supporting staff, were presented on the night:

  • Locum’s Nest – a temporary staffing management platform to simply connects doctors to locum work in healthcare organisations. The App matches doctors to short-staffed shifts available within preferred hospitals across a chosen geographic area.
  • Virti – Virtual and augmented reality platform for workforce training that transport staff users into realistic environments and uses computer vision to assess how they respond to stress to reduce anxiety and improve skills. Used for mental health staff to provide simulation training.
  • Establishment Genie – An NICE-endorsed digital workforce planning tool for health and social care staff. The Genie collects staffing data for instant reporting at individual unit, organisation and group level, providing analysis and benchmarking capability not previously available to assure and support professional judgement in identifying safe and appropriate staffing levels.
  • Infinity – a secure collaboration and task management solution that integrates with existing health information systems and transforms the way healthcare professionals coordinate their activity and access critical information.
  • Lantum – is a total workforce platform transforming how healthcare organisations and professionals connect. Their next generation AI-powered software helps staffing managers to better manage their rotas, fill shift gaps & drastically reduces reliance & money spent on temporary staffing agencies.
  • Truu – is a digital identity platform that enables secure, digital, remote pre-employment checks. Truu’s approach uses direct connections between doctors’ and hospitals and the sharing of verified credentials that meets regulatory standards and is inherently GDPR-compliant.
  • CoachBot – is the world’s first digital team coach and is designed to help managers get their team performing at the top of their game. It’s built on the principle that technology should make us interact offline more, not less. CoachBot makes it easy for teams to regularly have conversations about the things that matter – it’s not about teaching managers how to be good managers, it’s about making it easy for managers to do the things that great managers do.
  • SilverCloud Health – is a platform that’s provides clinically effective and easily accessible digital programmes that reduce barriers to engagement for those wanting emotional or mental health support. Life changing for users, especially those who feel unable to access help due to stigma, personal situation, location, or service wait times;
  • Q doctor – uses secure video consulting as a workforce solution; to allow NHS organisations to delocalise their workforce across their geography, putting the right clinician in the right place at the right time. Video consulting decreases workforce travel time between sites and in the community and introducing more flexible working.
  • Induction App – is a secure communications toolkit that quickly connects healthcare professionals to the people and information they need to work more efficiently and effectively in hospitals. The functions include a directory of bleep and extension numbers, document and guideline sharing, secure messaging and departmental workspaces. Induction is used by over half of all NHS doctors and is used by healthcare professionals in most NHS trusts.

“It was incredible to see so many well presented company pitches for innovative solutions to tackle the workforce crisis in the NHS. Overall the responses were positive and no doubt many of the conversations that started here will help mitigate the workforce crisis and result in improvements to the NHS using digital technology in the future.” Lesley Soden, Head of Innovation, Health Innovation Network.

To meet the gaps in NHS workforce, the adoption and spread of innovation across the NHS must be accelerated. Increasing awareness of the products that are currently available and their successes in different trusts is the first step to ensuring a robust NHS workforce fit for the future.

Got a digital innovation project or pilot that could improve the lives of people within NHS south London but would benefit from some additional funding? Then make sure you apply for the Innovation Grants 2019.

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound Grant Winner Kim Nurse

Winning films selected as part of Homeward Bound Project

Homeward Bound, an innovative project in which patients, carers and clinicians from across Kingston Hospital Trust worked with local students to create short films that explain the transfer home process for patients who have had prolonged hospital stays, has confirmed it will begin showcasing two of the final films to patients, family and carers.

The Homeward Bound project, funded by the Health Innovation Network, brought together film students from the University of the Creative Arts, along with the hospital’s staff and volunteers, to create a series of original animated short films. The films explained some of the issues and practicalities involved in the discharge process from hospital back home, which can often be an anxious process for people who have experienced prolonged hospital stays. The films were then entered into a competition and the winning two films will now be shown to hundreds of patients and carers across the hospital and wider community as part of the patient discharge process.

The first winning film, the Panel’s Choice, was selected a special screening of the shortlisted films at the VIP Screen in Kingston’s Odeon Cinema by an expert judging panel that included, Jan Ives, Patient and Carer Partner, Bob Suppiah, Director of Promotions and Partnerships at SkySian Bates, Chairman of Kingston Hospital, Sophie Beard, University of the Arts Senior Lecturer, Dr Kim Nurse, NHS England and the Health and Innovation Network’s Director of Digital Transformation, Breid O’Brien.

Breid said: “We’re delighted to have supported this fantastic project that is a great example of real co-production in action; hospital staff working alongside students, carers and patients and everyone involved having an important and equal role to play.

“I think all involved should be incredibly proud of what they managed to achieve with the Homeward Bound project. Ultimately what these films will do is make the transition from hospital to home that bit easier for patients, families and their carers, at a what is a very difficult time in their lives.”

The second winning film, the People’s Choice, was voted on by patients and hospital staff online and was announced at the Kingston Hospital Improvement Seminar. Both winning films uniquely provide information to patients to feel more in control of their departure and return back home more quickly and comfortably.

Both films will soon be shown on television screens around the hospital and made available online too.

People encouraged to ‘Go digital’ in new NHS short films

People encouraged to ‘Go digital’ in new NHS short films

A series of nine new films about digital health innovations in the NHS have been launched today, as part of #NHS70DigitalWeek.

Produced by the AHSN Network and NHS England, the films show some of the latest ways the NHS is using digital technology to empower people to take control of their health and care. They feature a range of apps and technologies that are starting to be used in parts of the NHS to help people manage conditions in more flexible ways using digital tools and services.

The NHS is harnessing the power of information and technology to empower people to take control of their own health. Waitless is a app – which combines waiting times at urgent care centres with up-to-the-minute travel information – enables patients to decide where to go to access faster treatment for minor injuries:

MIRA is a digital application that turns practical physiotherapy exercises into videogames to introduce an element of fun into rehab and recovery. It proved to be very popular among the film’s elderly participants, bringing out some healthy competition. Watch this film to learn more:

An innovative way to help women manage hypertension during pregnancy, the HaMpton app enables women like Asha and Clare to monitor their health at home. Watch this film to find out more.

This video shows how the Sleepio app records and recommends ways to improve sleep. Now it’s less counting of sheep – and more good nights of sleep – for people like Audrey and Claire:


Changing Health – a self-management app for type 2 diabetes – is empowering people like Sheinaz to better manage their condition. Watch the video to find out more:

Watch the initial launch film here:


Part of the wider work to celebrate and recognise the NHS’s 70th birthday, the videos aim to prompt people to see the NHS as a digital, as well as face-to-face service. Both the videos and the broader #NHS70DigitalWeek campaign encourage people to visit www.nhs.uk to find out more about how they can engage digitally with their health.

Tara Donnelly, Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network and AHSN Network lead for digital health said:

“Digital innovation has become an essential part of our everyday life.Whether it is accessing the world’s song catalogue, making immediate connections with friends and family or using maps on our phones to find locations, digital tools have becomepart of thefabric of our lives and society.

“These films show that at 70 years old, the NHS is using digital health more and more, and the benefits are huge. As the innovation arm of the NHS, Academic Health Science Networks are supporting the NHS up and down the country to spread the kind of proven digital innovation that empowers people and frees up clinical time. The reality is that healthcare can be in your pocket.”

The seven examples of digital health that are featured in the series via case studies of people who have used the technology are:

  • Changing Health: digital education and coaching platform for people with type 2 diabetes
  • Sleepio: sleep improvement programme using cognitive behavioural therapy
  • My House of Memories: assisting people living with dementia and memory loss
  • MIRA: turning physiotherapy into videogames to improve adherence and make rehab fun
  • EpsMon: improving epilepsy self-management
  • HaMpton: helping pregnant women to manage high blood pressure at home
  • Waitless: aimed at helping patients to find the shortestwaiting times for A&E and urgent care

The films will be launched over a series of weeks, between 24 July and early September and will be added to this page as they become available.

Sheinaz, who uses the ‘Changing Health’programme, talks in the film about the benefits of a digital approach:

“Going to a (support) group wasn’t going to be sustainable for me, the other option was the health app. Having the app helps me maintain consciousness of the condition I have and that I have responsibility for my own health.”

Another person who took part in the filming was Audrey, who used to suffer from sleep deprivation and used the Sleepio app. She said:

“It’s amazing, it’s the sort of thing you can do when you are commuting.” After having previously been without sleep for several weeks at a time, she reports she now hasn’t had a bad night’s sleep in over a year using this product that is strongly evidenced to combat sleep deprivation.

AHSNs have highlighted digital health innovation as a priority area for the NHS in coming years, particularly in the area of long-term condition management, where there are major opportunities for supporting people in self-management and NHS currently spends 70 per cent of its budget.

Digital therapeutics work best when there is a partnership between the patient, their GP and where necessary a team of specialist clinicians or coaches supervising results, coaching and encouraging. The results achieved by the best-evidenced products are powerful – weight loss, fewer crises, lower blood glucose, increased activity, better adherence to medicine, improved self-care, better sleep and mood, fewer admissions to hospital and savings in the longer term to the NHS thanks to fewer complications. The AHSNs work to identify and help spread these innovations, supporting innovators from both the NHS and industry, as well as staff within the NHS with uptake, to maximise the opportunities for the benefit of patients.