Discover case studies

Innovation starts not with solutions, but with questions or challenges. Often the initial role of the West of England AHSN is in helping to define the problem.

Our work programme is designed to respond to the priorities of our local health and care systems for innovation and improvement. We have nurtured active networks and communities of health and care professionals, bringing people together to help them collectively identify and articulate the needs and challenges that would benefit most from new approaches.

Another important role for the AHSN is to develop capability and expertise around the development
and adoption of innovation. We support our local health and care community to think and work
innovatively and implement new ways of working using design thinking and quality improvement (QI)
methods and tools.

Many innovations show early promise, but selecting those that can be applied to genuine needs, and
then refining them is the next critical stage. We work with many healthcare innovators at this stage, inspiring and equipping new entrepreneurial talent through our business development support and our online Innovation Exchange.

Here are some case studies exploring our work at the ‘Discover’ phase of our innovation pipeline from 2022-23:

Nurturing active networks

South West Learning Disabilities Collaborative

On average, people with a learning disability die 20 years younger than their peers. Many of these
deaths continue to be from avoidable causes, such as pneumonia and sepsis.

We established the West of England Learning Disabilities Collaborative in 2019 to help tackle
this disparity in life expectancy and equity of care. The collaborative shares learning and best practice and is open to healthcare professionals, experts by experience, carers and family members.

In 2022/23 the collaborative was expanded to cover the entire South West region. It is now funded
and delivered in partnership with NHS England South West and has over 390 members.

Recent activity has focused on cancer care, spotting the soft signs of deterioration through
tools such as RESTORE2, and annual health checks. 72% of people with a learning disability in
our region had an annual health check in 2021/22.

Read more about our Learning Disabilities Collaborative here.

Reducing prescribing of opioids

We have been supporting Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW) integrated care system to establish their systemwide framework to reduce harm from opioids and dependence-forming medicines.

We brought stakeholders together to create a shared vision and action plan, including a measurement plan to improve the management of chronic pain by reducing harm from opioids.

Through an established BSW opioid harm reduction working group, aligned to local medicines safety governance structures, three areas of priority were identified, including short, medium and longer-term improvements. These were: improving confidence of clinicians working in primary care; improving collaboration and prescribing between primary and secondary care; and improving integrated care records for people on dependence forming medicines. Alongside this, we helped to share learning across all three of our local integrated care systems, providing webinars and resources to support broader learning.

Find out more about our medicines safety work here.

Regional Perinatal Equity Network

Our Regional Perinatal Equity Network was launched in July 2021 by the West of England and
South West AHSNs. It provides an opportunity for those working within maternity and newborn services and related organisations, along with parents, to come together to learn and share ideas.

Network meetings have featured speakers on national approaches to tackling maternal inequity, including representatives from the NHS Race and Health Observatory and the Race Equality Taskforce at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. On a more local level, partners involved in our Black Maternity Matters project have shared their personal and professional experiences with the network in setting up support organisations for Black mothers, focusing in particular on the power of language.

Read more about the network here.

Marginalised groups have had information extracted for the comfort and convenience of professionals and the system for too long - the acronym ‘BAME’ being an example of lumping the ‘global majority’ into a four-letter acronym despite it being reductive and damaging. My work with the AHSN on projects such as the Regional Perinatal Equity Network and Black Maternity Matters will continue, and as part of that we’ll continue to explore the power of language and why it is so important in starting and continuing the conversation to ultimately improve patient safety and care.

Katie Donovan Adekanmbi Inclusion and Cohesion Specialist, BCohCo

Articulating the need for innovation

Create Open Health: Voices for Change

Voices for Change was a partnership project between the West of England AHSN, the Bladder and Bowel Health Integration Team (BABCON HIT) at Bristol Health Partners and Disruptive Thinking, as part of our Create Open Health open innovation programme.

Its purpose was to give a voice to those living with bladder and bowel conditions to identify need and
share suggested improvements with the sector. The long-term aim is to initiate positive change.

During the discovery phase, we reached out to people with bladder and bowel control issues, as
well as those caring for them, to gather valuable insight from those with lived experience. We especially wanted to hear from people who are disproportionately affected and from underrepresented
groups, and we offered an inclusive and accessible approach for information gathering.

In November 2022, the project’s final output – the Voices for Change report – was presented at the
House of Commons to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Bladder and Bowel Continence Care, at which there was strong consensus and support for the themes and priorities moving forwards. The report has also informed NHS England’s national primary care clinical pathway for constipation in children.

Read the Voices for Change report here.

The Voices for Change project that I was privileged to be involved in provided a much-needed opportunity to really hear the voices of people who experience bladder and bowel leakage and what it is like to live with this day in, day out. The people involved were incredibly humbling, talking so candidly about the difficulties they face and their desire to see things improve for themselves and the many other people also affected.

Nikki Cotterill BABCON HIT Director, Bristol Health Partners

Building capability and sharing knowledge

West of England Academy

Our popular Academy delivers a wide range of support and events to help health and care professionals and industry innovators gain knowledge and develop essential skills for innovative thinking and working.

Last year’s virtual events and training included human-centred product design and development, a three-part adoption and spread series, and an introduction to design thinking. We also held face-to-face sessions on improvement coaching skills and psychology for quality improvement (QI) and we are working closely with our integrated care boards to develop bespoke support for their teams.

The Academy has continued to expand its range of online resources, including a new QI workbook and a creative problem-solving toolkit for design thinking, all of which are freely available on our website.

Visit the Academy section of our website.

Evidence repository

Promoting a culture of shared learning and collaboration, our Evidence Repository is a
portal for safely sharing non-peer reviewed documents that are not published elsewhere.

Established in 2020 in partnership with local integrated care systems and hospital libraries as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, the repository supports rapid evidence sharing of grey literature.

The numbers of registered users and uploaded documents continue to increase and in response to feedback we have expanded the membership to include public health organisations, as well as broadening the content to include quality improvement and population health management projects.

Visit the Evidence Repository here.

Supporting innovators

We bring a whole system approach to matching innovation to locally identified challenges by connecting and brokering relationships between innovators, industry, researchers and academics, and health and care colleagues.

By being embedded in our local health and care systems, we understand the innovation needs of the NHS and social care and share these insights with innovators, providing essential guidance and signposting to all those developing products and services with the potential to improve patient outcomes.

Through its support to innovators over the last year, our industry and innovation team has helped companies to leverage £7 million through grants and private investment, and a further £3.5 million
for university-based innovations.

Innovation Exchange

Our online Innovation Exchange is designed to help innovators understand health and care challenges and connect innovators to the support they need, including:

  • local and national funding
  • a range of business support services and business development programmes
  • online guides, toolkits and resources
  • information on our strategic partners, their services and opportunities for collaboration
  • case studies on innovators we have worked with.

Visit the Innovation Exchange.

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