Yorkshire & Humber Health & Wellbeing ECHAlliance Ecosystem of the Month – June

21st June 2021

This month, as part of a regular feature on our ECHAlliance Ecosystems, we take a deep dive into one of our older Ecosystems within the UK – the Yorkshire and Humber Wellbeing Ecosystem based in the east of England. It is led by one of the 15 Academic Health Science Networks set up by NHS England. Here we see the breadth of the stakeholders they work with and who their champions are as well as their priorities, strengths and areas they collaborate on. 

1. What is the approximate stakeholder breakdown of your ecosystem?

The Yorkshire & Humber Health and Wellbeing Eco-system sits within the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (YHAHSN), one of 15 AHSNs set up by NHS England to operate as the key innovation arm of the NHS.  We act as a bridge between health care providers, commissioners, academia and industry to accelerate the adoption of clinically proven innovations into the NHS to enhance NHS health economics and provide improved patient treatment.  We work closely with our NHS stakeholders at acute trusts, mental health trusts, clinical commissioning groups and primary care networks to gain an understanding of needs, priorities and challenges, and assist with introducing innovative pathways of care or technology which could help to alleviate these.    The YHAHSN is also commissioned by the Office of Life Sciences to provide support to industry innovators working within healthcare and life sciences.  Over the last 12 months we have worked with over 300 companies as part of our Innovation Exchange to help them understand the health care challenges in our region and what they need to do to engage successfully with NHS organisations.

2. Who are the champions from your Ecosystem?

The YHAHSN work closely with digital leaders and influencers across the region to assist with the understanding of digital challenges and priorities.  We have supported a number of digital transformation projects, particularly in relation to the development of the Yorkshire & Humber Care Record, which will bring together a patient’s medical records from secondary care, primary care and other areas of the health system into one record.  The leaders of this project are some of the key advocates for the development of digital strategy within our region and nationally.  

At a more granular level, working with the digital leads and transformation leads at each of our Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) is integral to ensuring that we deliver projects which address core challenges and priorities.  Digital transformation underpins a lot of the projects that we deliver.  Over the last year, we have supported the rapid implementation of technology to assist with the delivery of remote consultation, supported an outpatient transformation programme with one of our ICSs and supported the development and scoping of an ICS wide tele-dermatology strategy. 

3. What EU collaborations are you involved with or would you like to be form part of?

The YHAHSN is working on a number of projects with partners across Europe to share learning, introduce innovation and create partnerships.  We are working towards becoming a key international partner for healthcare innovations for import and export, identifying innovations from outside the UK that meet an unmet need in our region. We have taken big strides in providing knowledge exchange for our NHS organisations to work with peers from overseas in Switzerland, Sweden, Barcelona and Israel to build partnerships that help drive innovation and improve patient outcomes and ultimately, provide economic growth to our region through foreign direct investment. 

Our work with Norway Health Tech introduced Norwegian SMEs and their innovations to the UK healthcare system and vice versa and we have recently submitted a first draft proposal for a partnership between Oslo Hospital and Leeds Teaching Hospitals to share knowledge and innovation.

In addition, we work closely with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) within our region to understand inward investment activity, support for export, and the explore opportunities for partnerships on international activity.

4. What are the key priorities and themes for your ecosystem?

Priorities within our eco-system are defined by the priorities of our NHS stakeholders.  It will come as no surprise that priorities at present are focused on the post-covid recovery of elective services. 

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the rapid implementation of digital technologies to support the remote delivery of care, digital triage and remote monitoring.  Video consultations between clinicians and patients have become common place, offering greater flexibility to patients in the way in which consultations are held.  Digital triage solutions have also been successfully implemented in primary care, directing patients to the most appropriate method of care and helping to alleviate pressures on GP services.  Supporting the continued use of improvements within the digital delivery of service will be a core priority over the next 12 months in support of the Digital First Agenda. 

We have undertaken a large amount of activity to support the recovery of elective care, both in showcasing technologies which can help to alleviate pressures and in supporting the adoption of technologies into our local NHS stakeholder organisations.  Some examples of projects to support these priorities are:

  • Support to outpatient transformation projects within our region which look to streamline outpatient services utilising digital tools for communication with patients, appointment management and patient initiated follow ups. 
  • The introduction of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology into a number of trusts to automate referral processes.
  • The introduction of digital tele-dermatology services which allow patients to submit photographs through an app.
  • The introduction of remote monitoring technologies which utilise digital technology to monitor vital signs.

5. What is your primary strength as an ecosystem?

As one of 15 Academic Health Science Networks, we have a good understanding of national and regional policies around digital strategy and innovation.  Working closely with our regional stakeholders ensures that we have a thorough understanding of local priorities and needs so that we can introduce innovation which best addresses these. 

There are a wealth of highly innovative med-tech companies within the region who have long standing reputations for their expertise in developing solutions which meet the needs of patients, clinicians and the wider system.  Yorkshire and Humber is home to around 650 health companies, and round 22% of digital health jobs in England and Wales are based in the Leeds City Region alone.

In addition, there are a number of NHS organisations based within our region who have digital strategy at the core of their activity:  

  • NHS Digital and NHSX have bases within Leeds, providing good local links to national policy holders. 
  • The National Pathology Imaging Co-operative (NPIC), a digital imaging and artificial intelligence development project to improve digital pathology capabilities has one of its five bases in Leeds.

The wealth of digital health activity within our region creates a strong community for the sharing of information and best practice which ultimately leads to improvements in the delivery of care. 

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