Driving innovation activities and a culture of innovation through the Dorset ICS Innovation Hub

A case study detailing how the Innovation Hub model was set-up in Dorset, highlighting the steps taken from the funding application to Innovation Hub delivery.

Themes: Culture, Organisational Structures

Case study summary

The Dorset Innovation Hub (the Hub) is one of four hubs across England funded by The Health Foundation (HF). The Hub is led by University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust on behalf of the Dorset Integrated Care System (ICS). Its aim is to support sustainable adoption of proven innovation in line with local priorities that can improve health and social care outcomes, equality of care and accessibility across Dorset. This case study will summarise the Innovation Hub model and how it has been implemented in Dorset.  

What was the problem or opportunity?

Dorset has an older population, 20 years ahead of the UK average, with rising incidence of long-term conditions and significant variation in both life and healthy life expectancy. In this context, the Hub focuses on supporting sustainable adoption and spread of proven innovations (including medicines, technology, diagnostics, digital, and innovative ways of working) that align with local priorities.  

How did this support innovation adoption and spread?

A Hub programme group was established in October 2020 to develop a bid for HF funding. The bid was successful, and the HF awarded funding in the summer of 2021 which runs to early 2024. The Hub programme group now oversees implementation and delivery of the programme. 

The Hub consists of a core team made up of a Hub lead, programme manager and project manager (whose posts are funded by the HF – £390,000 over 3 years). The team also includes staff from a range of other system partner organisations including Wessex AHSN who have provided significant in-kind funding to the Hub along with expertise in horizon scanning, innovation adoption and evaluation.  

To fulfil the mission statement for the Hub – “to support and sustain the adoption of the world’s best health and care innovations for the benefit of all citizens of Dorset” – the core team works alongside clinical and operational teams within Dorset ICS to deliver system priority innovation projects. The Hub also provides training and support to staff working in the ICS to build in-house capacity and develop knowledge and confidence in adopting and spreading innovation. 

The Hub core team have established governance processes and day to day functionality and use an  electronic project management tool (which is accessible to all involved staff) for quarterly reporting, managing risks, issues and actions both relating to overarching Hub delivery and at the individual project level. Formal governance includes reporting (both quarterly highlight and exception reports) to the Hub programme group, Transformation & Improvement Group (hosted by University Hospitals Dorset (UHD)), and upward to the Dorset ICS board.  

In developing the Hub, a range of overarching workstreams have been established to ensure sustainable approaches to adoption and spread are embedded within the ICS. These include: 

  • development of a range of work programmes that align with local priorities
  • working with partner organisations to build an innovation platform to provide consistent and clear information
  • development of an innovation education programme to build in-house capacity within the ICS workforce
  • establishing a community of practice open to all health and care staff in Dorset to facilitate peer to peer learning
  • developing a communications strategy around Hub programmes/projects to showcase work and share lessons learned; and
  • developing an evaluation framework to help build an evidence base for innovations and ensure sustainable adoption and spread.

How were patients and the public involved?

The Hub is part of the Dorset Citizen Panel which draws on the expertise of a network of service users, patients and established patient and public involvement (PPI) groups, eg Dorset Blind Association and Access Dorset. The Hub is also working with the Wessex Patient Involvement Network to recruit representatives from established PPI expert groups within Dorset, with a view to embed a PPI co-production approach to all innovation projects.  

What were the results?

The Hub moved from development phase to delivery mode in April 2022, having established robust mechanisms to measure the impacts and realise the benefits of both the overarching Hub objectives and individual projects.  

Key performance indicators have been developed and built into the programme framework to ensure relevant data is captured at baseline, post implementation and at appropriate intervals throughout programme delivery. This framework is used for all projects and enables assessment of impact in a range of domains including but not limited to clinical outcomes and health inequalities and provides information on lessons learned (both what worked well and what could be improved on).  

Where the project involves implementation of a MTFM product, eg Placental Growth Factor, the NICE impact template is used, a clinical audit undertaken using the NICE clinical standards and a case study developed to showcase outcomes. 

As part of the HF bid, the Hub has developed a comprehensive evaluation programme, with Wessex AHSN undertaking the local (Dorset) evaluation.  

What were the learning points?

There are a number of key lessons learned from the early stages of Hub implementation which are transferable to other ICSs considering their approach to adoption and spread of innovation. These include:   

  • Strong relationships, drive and commitment from ICS and partner organisations which underpins the successful establishment of a sustainable system approach to the adoption of innovation locally.
  • Having a clear definition of innovation that is coproduced by the local system, to reduce variation in interpretation and support a ‘universal’ language that is relevant locally.
  • Developing a proactive communication strategy to raise awareness of innovation adoption locally. To facilitate this the Hub are developing an innovation platform to provide consistent and clear information to all partner organisations.
  • Establishing innovation as part of the golden thread of quality and ensuring innovation work is undertaken collaboratively with quality improvement teams to optimise impact for Dorset citizens and facilitate sustainability.
  • Understanding the pros and cons of face to face versus virtual working and agreeing where either may be required to facilitate optimal project outcomes, recognising that this has been challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Establishing a clear understanding of the roles and remits of clinical versus Hub staff to ensure projects have a clear and agreed exit strategy from initiation, are optimised for sustainability and ultimately move to business as usual. To facilitate this, the Hub are developing clear project management structures whereby:
    • the Hub team provide the innovation expertise while working with a clinical team related to the speciality area;
    • the project lead should be a clinician working within the relevant speciality; and
    • the project should involve key stakeholders from project initiation to facilitate buy-in.

Next steps and sustainability

The Hub has several key short to medium term priorities that build on work already in progress to embed a culture of innovation adoption within Dorset ICS. This includes continuing to implement programmes of work that firmly align with local priorities (eg palliative and end of life care, children and young people transition to adult services, community rehabilitation and malnutrition in older people). Work is also planned to further develop the innovation platform, innovation education programme and community of practice, and to fully embed an evaluation approach into projects from the outset.  

Find out more 

Contact details 

Dorset Innovation Hub – dorsetinnovationhub@uhd.nhs.uk

Nicola Bent – nicola.bent@wessexahsn.net 

Sarah Chessell – sarah.chessell@uhd.nhs.uk