Partnerships and Clinical Innovation Director, Alicia Ridout, has been reflecting on the benefits that collaborating for improvement and innovation can bring in this challenging environment.

In 1953 my Mum was a Nightingale Nurse, a Matron at St Thomas Hospital in London. She was involved in the early development of Nightingale wards and went on to lead a succession of innovations including being the first field worker Health Visitor for a large national charity, supporting children and families in deprived urban areas. She worked in partnership with networks in the third sector and families all her adult life, giving freely of her expertise and knowledge.

She inspired many, including me, to be tenacious and committed to working in partnership to innovate where it mattered most, as part of patient care. That passion drives many of us during this challenging time, however, it also takes resource and a terrier-like tenacity to get service improvements embedded in practice. This is an even bigger challenge when infrastructure is creaking and staff are on their knees.

It was in this context that @Tara_donnelly was quoting Eric Topols’ mantra ‘share more, get smarter faster’ in a recent innovation webinar. The new NHSx Innovation Collaborative is aimed at health and care staff and is using the NHS Futures platform to engage NHS/Social Care innovators seeking support for their technology projects.

This prompted me to reflect on how commercial sector regulatory expertise can be brought to the table and can effectively engage with these NHS innovators at an early stage, as NHS Futures is not open to our wider commercial community.

An early review of innovations in terms of safety and regulatory pitfalls, and scanning of existing products to meet identified needs is critical when resources are so very stretched.

The reality is that the door is open, it might just not be the front door! We can deploy added value to our work with sector partners, adopting several empathetic frames:

  1. Taking space to think – we have seen many reports in the last few weeks, demonstrating the risks of rushing headlong into deployments. Reflective practice is an important element of clinical practice and it is an important governance tool for innovation. This is especially evident as COVID impacts health inequalities where inadvertently some vulnerable groups have been further disadvantaged by rushing to unhelpful blanket solutions. It is a core element for example when using PDSA cycles across deployment phases, illustrating the benefits realisation in the Topol mantra.
  2. Apply collaborative models to innovation projects that help look at it from several angles, not just financial. For example, Prof Trish Greenhalgh work at Oxford on the NASSS.  I have used this with technology innovation project teams and was involved in the early work with mHabitat.  It surfaced deeper insights multi-disciplinary teams had not articulated prior to this and enabled us to better manage complex scaling/non-adoption risks and challenges much early in the project lifecycle.
  3. Invest in network sharing  – many innovations are funded one way or another in health, by public funds, directly or indirectly. Working across integrated networks, openly, and tailoring effort to address the existing issues for collaborators can aid a frictionless route to impact. Communities of practice like the Innovation Collaborative and the AHSN Network can monetise efficiencies, freeing innovation capacity and creativity for the next tranche of challenges. Knowledge mobilisation is key to learning faster and ETHOS is working with Warwick University to optimise open sharing of evidence-based practice.

At ETHOS our Team are all ex-NHS staff who are committed to this way of working.

We want to share our expertise and enable organisations to manage excellent compliance practices independently, not be tied into unending, expensive contracts. We want to share innovations at scale. Positively influencing regulatory ecosystems such as NHSx, is top of our innovation agenda.

In the spirit of pioneers like my Mum, ETHOS is gathering regulatory and safety subject matter expertise in an effort to support our partners and collaborators as they innovate at scale and pace, for patient benefit.

Here are just a few examples of how we are sharing more and learning faster with our collaborator networks:

  • Our CEO, Stuart Harrison is working with colleagues to generate affordable learning modules in partnership with IET Academy
  • Providing pro bono expertise to a small team of Occupational Therapists, deploying a proof of concept web app during the pandemic, developed by award-winning HMA
  • Facilitating confidence and competence in clinical safety under the  DCB0160/0129  standards with over 50 staff from across the region with  Cheshire & Merseyside Health & Care Partnership
  • Collaborating with the charity stem4  to assure regulatory compliance at pace as the organisation grows, advising on resources required to enable the team to manage this in-house in future, and sharing what works with other 3rd sector innovators
  • Taking the DTAC as a holistic framework to guide clients towards a state of readiness for health and care adoption, while supporting a check and challenge approach to arms-length bodies and professional networks such as the Faculty of Clinical Informatics, with whom we work.

If you would like to discuss how we can develop the sectors conversations, meet the team, hear more about our approach or collaborate with us to build the community of practice, please contact  Alicia Ridout or Stuart Harrison.

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