NHS projects rise to the Innovation Challenge

A programme that combines magic lessons with effective motor therapy for children, a virtual clinic that speeds up fracture treatment, and a new way of working that cuts delays in lung cancer diagnosis, are just some of the NHS-led projects that will receive NHS Innovation Challenge Prize funding and support.

The NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes exist to encourage, recognise and reward these frontline ideas, and support innovators in getting them embedded across the NHS. This year they are supported by MSD, 3M, Allied Health Professionals, Academic Health and Science Networks and NHS England’s National Clinical Directors.

Today, £240,000 in prize money will be awarded across the challenges, plus tailored professional mentoring and developmental support packages from our internal and external partners. Three projects will receive major packages including up to £100,000, while a further 11 “acorn” projects will receive smaller bundles of support and funding.

  • Cancer Challenge winner Barnet Hospital, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, will receive £100,000 plus support from MSD, to further develop its innovative way of performing lung biopsies. A new approach to carrying out lung biopsies means that patients can leave hospital just 30 minutes after undergoing the potentially life-saving test – rather than the minimum four-hour stay needed in other UK hospitals. By adopting new techniques and using new equipment, the service has increased ten-fold the number of biopsies it carries out each year, giving more patients early access to the latest lung cancer treatments. By drastically reducing the number of people being admitted as in-patients following biopsy the service has also slashed its costs by around 90% per patient.
  • Rehabilitation Challenge winner Breathe Arts Health Research will receive up to £50,000 in funding, plus a dedicated mentoring package, from AHPF to further develop Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Programme for young people aged seven to 19 who have hemiplegia (paralysis of one side of the body). The programme is run over two weeks in summer, and based on the Hand-Arm Bimanual Intensive Therapy (HABIT) programme, which follows NICE best-practice guidelines, but the difference is that this innovative programme is delivered as a training course in magic! The fun programme is very effective, with some young people showing 80% improvement in hand and arm function following the programme, clinically-significant motor skills improvements maintained after six months, and better psychological wellbeing across families.
  • Best Practice Adoption Challenge winner Brighton and Sussex University NHS Foundation Trust will receive an intensive, high-level package of support from 3M, including dedicated mentorship, and work at the company’s global customer innovation centre in Minnesota. Their Virtual Fracture Clinic allows 100% consultant review of complex fracture x-rays every weekday morning, with patients using easily-removable immobilisation boots instead of temporary plaster casts. Patients are then called and e-mailed with their diagnosis, and instructions on how to care for their injury before they are called back to hospital for further treatment. The system has halved costs, freed up staff time, and is more convenient for patients.

Feedback from previous winners has shown that tailored training and mentoring is often more valuable to innovators than cash funding, so this year the focus has shifted towards more in-depth professional support.

Dr Sam Hare, Consultant Thoracic Radiologist & Service Line Lead for Radiology at Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals, who leads the Cancer Challenge prizewinning lung biopsy service there, said: “It is a huge privilege to be honoured with this NHS Innovation award. This is an exciting opportunity to help shape a new and brighter landscape for lung cancer patients. The prize funding and support from NHS England will help us ensure that the ‘Barnet model’ becomes the norm throughout the UK, so that patients can be diagnosed more quickly and access the latest treatments.”

Professor Tony Young, National Clinical Director for Innovation at NHS England, said: “Once again, the NHS Innovation Challenge Prize has shown us that there is really fantastic work going on throughout the NHS in England, with innovations not only making a direct difference to individual patients, but also creating a knock-on effect throughout their local health economies that makes other services work better too.

“There is real breadth to the types of prizewinning projects and schemes, demonstrating that embracing innovation can lead to great results in almost every area of NHS work. It was a great pleasure to be a member of the judging panel, where I could learn about the projects that are happening right now, and help to make sure they are developed to their full potential in partnership with world-leading commercial partners and with NHS England.”

Over the last four years the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes have helped to identify and spreads proven innovations, promoting a culture of invention and driving adoption of the best ideas.

Full details of the programme, including previous winners, are available on the Innovation Challenge Prizes website