Driving better and fairer health outcomes for our local communities and enabling wealth creation: the launch of our new five-year strategy

In this blog, our Chief Executive, Natasha Swinscoe, reflects on co-creating Health Innovation West of England’s new five-year strategy and explores some of our new priority areas of focus.

I am pleased to share with you our new Health Innovation West of England Strategy for the next five years, setting out our clear vision for all communities in the West of England to benefit faster from the best innovations in health and care.

We will achieve this by working in partnership with our local health and care systems and the life sciences sector to discover, develop and deploy proven innovation to drive better and fairer health outcomes for our local communities and enable wealth creation.

We co-created this strategy with our staff team, our health and care member organisations, innovation ecosystem partners and our Partnership Board, which includes the chief executives from across our three integrated care systems.

We started this work in the summer of 2023 when the 15 Health Innovation Networks were relicensed by NHS England and the Government’s Office for Life Sciences for a further five years. We wanted to ensure our programmes and support continues to meet the needs and priorities of all the people we work with and the populations we serve.

Building on our track record

We have a fabulous track record from our first 10 years as the West of England Academic Health Science Network (we had a name change in October 2023 too!) of working collaboratively with system partners and organisations to create the right opportunities to deliver projects targeted at meeting real needs. Our back catalogue of projects delivered and spread locally (and in many cases nationally) proves we do this well.

Last summer was the ideal time to pause and take stock. The health and care landscape has changed so much in the last decade, with the introduction of integrated care systems and boards who are now are key partners, combined of course with the huge impact Covid has had in changing how we work and deliver services. We felt it was important to review how we work and what we do to ensure we are still adding value to the work of our partners ‘on the ground’.

Co-creating our strategic approach

We started by having discussions with our staff team at Health Innovation West of England, looking back at what we believe has supported our success, practices we think are useful to retain and areas we want to expand or develop. We tested this with our Partnership Board in September and involved all Board Members in individual ‘deep dive’ conversations where we asked two key questions:

“What does your organisation value from the past ten years of working with Health Innovation West of England that you want us to keep doing?”

“How do you see innovation supporting your organisation’s priorities in the future?”

The answers led us directly to the strategy you see here.

Much of what we did in the past we will continue to do because it works. We are valued for our joined-up approach, and in particular our focus on collaborating across organisational, system and geographical boundaries, and creating and resourcing networks or communities of practice.

But there are some areas we want to focus on more deeply. We identified a couple of clear areas for development that support the changes in health and social care in recent years.

A shift left to prevention and early intervention

Our new strategy therefore has a greater focus on prevention and early intervention. To achieve this “shift left” coupled with a focus on reducing health inequalities, we will work with the wider system and not just health partners. And by engaging more directly with local communities, in particular the disadvantaged and seldom heard, we aim to better understand and respond to the broader social determinants of health.

Focus on the important – not the urgent

One of the comments from our Board that sticks in my head is: “Focus on the important not the urgent – systems are all focussed on the urgent and often don’t get to the important.”

This is the space that Health Innovation West of England needs to work in. Providing partners with the headspace and resources to consider the ‘important’, where we can be proactive and intentional, rather than responsive and firefighting. This means our work in areas such as maternal and neonatal health, cancer and cardiovascular disease remain key work areas for us.

Wealth is as important as health

We also heard that our partners recognise wealth is as important as health. Systems and organisations are keen to work more commercially with innovators but don’t always know how. Our role is to both support health and care services maximise the use of innovation, as well as support innovators to develop solutions that genuinely meet the needs of our health and care services.

To do this many innovators need to generate real world evidence and evaluation of their solutions “in use”, and so a major strand of our new strategy is to expand our evaluation function to support this area of activity.

Developing new networks

As we implement this new strategy into action, I’m looking forward to developing new networks and working relationships with people across the West of England, in particular with social care and local authority colleagues, VCSE organisations and community groups.

The world of innovation is vibrant and exciting in the West of England. We have an amazing health and life sciences ecosystem and a wide range of industry in place already. There are opportunities all around us to generate solutions to the issues our health and social care colleagues face every day.

We are also fortunate to have so many innovative colleagues and thinkers in our patch, people who really want to make a difference and think “outside the box” to find solutions to knotty problems.

I’m proud that the team at Health Innovation West of England are an integral part of this community and I am excited about making the connections to find and create those opportunities with you over the next five years.

If you’d like to get in touch, please email me at natasha.swinscoe2@nhs.net.


Posted on April 23, 2024 by Natasha Swinscoe, Chief Executive, Health Innovation West of England

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