The North East health innovation ecosystem – one of a kind

National NHS leaders visited the region last week to hear about some of the AHSN NENC-supported world-leading healthcare innovations from across the region.

Guests from NHS England and NHS Improvement and NHSX met with the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) Executive Team and partners, to shine a spotlight on innovations that are transforming patient care.

During the two-day visit, national NHS colleagues learnt about the AHSN NENC’s vision for the future and toured some of the region’s world-leading health innovation assets. The tours highlighted how AHSN NENC supported the establishment of these projects and continues to work in partnership with NHS, academic and industry leaders to drive forward innovations.

Guests included Matt Whitty, Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences, NHS England and NHS Improvement & CEO of the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), Pollyanna Jones, Chief of Staff at Innovation, Research and Life Sciences, and Breid O’Brien, Deputy Director of Digital Health, NHSX.

Matt said: “Through research and innovation we can  improve patient outcomes and reduce health inequalities and so it is important to celebrate and spotlight their impact. It was a great pleasure to visit AHSN NENC and meet those teams helping to get some of the NHS’s most promising healthcare innovations to patients faster.”

Dr Nicola Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer at the AHSN NENC, said: “It was fantastic to host the visit with Matt, Pollyanna and Breid to give them an insight into the work of the AHSN NENC and an opportunity to meet some of our amazing local innovators across the NHS and industry. Our guests were impressed by the breadth of our work across the Innovation Pathway and the collaborative and joined-up approach within the North East and North Cumbria’s health ecosystem. Thank you to everyone involved in making this a very special visit.”

This visits included tours of:

  • Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Manufacturing and Innovation Hub, which was launched at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to meet the growing demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical equipment. The AHSN NENC supported the Trust’s efforts in setting up the initial production and brokered several relationships for the Trust including with regional textile factories who did not want to furlough their staff. This was followed by a meeting with the Trust’s Lipid Service team, which secured pathway transformation funding from the AAC to support the inclusion of PCSK9 inhibitors as a possible treatment option in the lipid management pathway across primary and secondary care.
  • The Integrated COVID Hub North East, including a tour of a dedicated innovation lab, accommodating new technologies and methods for the next stage of COVID science. The hub is first of its kind in the UK and aims to lead the fight against the virus through delivering: accurate and fast testing; cutting edge science and robust data analysis. The AHSN NENC supported the original bid to establish the Hub and continues to play an active role as a member of the Hub’s steering group.
  • The North East Futures University Technical College (UTC). The AHSN NENC has supported the UTC since its inception, forming part of the Steering Group that developed the business case for the school.

Innovators from across the region were also invited to present their innovations at an ‘Innovation Exposé’ during the visit. This included innovators from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Quality Hospital Solutions, Health Call, NHS England North East and Yorkshire, the Northern Cancer Alliance, and the Great North Care Record.