Expo Celebrates the Ground-Breaking Technology Creating a Healthier Population and Economic Growth Across the Region

The search is underway to find the next pioneering innovations in healthcare that will save patients’ lives and generate growth in the regional economy.

The Bright Ideas in Health Awards competition, now in its fifteenth year, is open following a launch at a special event celebrating the last five years’ work of the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC).Over 100 medical professionals, academia and industry personnel came together at the recent AHSN NENC Expo 2018 to showcase the collaborative initiatives which are saving the lives of patients across the UK and channelling millions of pounds into the North East economy. The event highlighted a number of new ideas that are improving the care of patients across all aspects of the NHS from stroke and maternal care to mental health.

They included innovative ways of preventing strokes through foot checks and reducing cerebral palsy in pre-term babies.

Speaking at the event, Dr Séamus O’Neill, Chief Executive, AHSN NENC, said: “It is clear that we have come a long way in the last five years and we have successfully established the AHSN NENC as a valued component of the regional innovation landscape.“We have just been relicensed by NHS England for a second five year period and have a new contract from the Office of Life Sciences (OLS) to support local Innovation Exchanges and economic growth.“The success of AHSN-led initiatives such as the Great North Care Record, the Patient Safety Collaborative and The Innovation Pathway demonstrate the value of a trusted cross-organisational broker to initiate and support transformation.” The AHSN NENC is one of 15 regional networks across the UK that act as a catalyst to innovation and find solutions to the healthcare challenges that we face every day.

Set up in 2013 with a five year licence to encourage new ideas and stimulate economic growth, AHSN NENC has generated £9.4m in investments, supported 596 companies, screened 600,000 patients and trained 28,636 staff across the .It has now been licensed for a further five years to continue its work harnessing the talent in the region to achieve its main targets of improving health, transforming patient safety and supporting economic growth. Among the 22 innovations that have spread from the network is a project to prevent strokes due to Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

Kate Mackay, AF Programme Lead at AHSN NENC, said: “As a major risk factor for stroke, estimates suggest more than 25,000 people in the North East and North Cumbria have undiagnosed Atrial Fibrillation – and often it displays no symptoms. If everyone suffering from AF were found, thousands of lives could be saved and it could save the NHS millions.

“That’s why it’s our mission to find the missing AF sufferers. We’ve been training healthcare professionals across the region, including GPs, nurses and podiatrists, to empower them to detect AF using pulse-checking tools, and help to reduce the number of strokes and deaths by treating AF as early as possible.”

Another innovative project is PReCePT, which aims to reduce the incidence of cerebral palsy in pre-term babies.

Maxine Sleath, PSC Project Support Officer, AHSN NENC, said: “For every 42 mothers treated with magnesium sulphate, one case of cerebral palsy can be prevented. We are collaborating with AHSN’s across the country to progress the roll out of this life-changing treatment and ensuring that we support each other and promote best practice across the board.”

Dr Séamus O’Neill, added: “The wide variety of exciting work discussed at the Expo, shows that we have the capability here in the region to improve patient health and drive economic growth. “The event was a celebration of how far we have come and a look forward to the programmes of work we will be promoting in the next five years.“I am also pleased to launch this year’s Bright Ideas in Health Awards, which show how everyone can play a part in developing innovative solutions to the healthcare challenges that we face every day in then NHS.”