Their ambition is to accelerate uptake of innovation and address some of the most pressing challenges the NHS is facing today.

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and CW+ launch innovation programme

By Leontina Postelnicu
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Former health minister Lord O'Shaughnessy spoke at the launch event yesterday (25 September)

From the earliest form of A&E to the creation of the first HIV clinic in the UK and the launch of an Acute Diagnostic Oncology Clinic, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust boasts a rich history of innovation. The Westminster Hospital - which became Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in 1993 - was the first in the world to be established as a charitable foundation, founded in the 18th century.

As the worlds of digital technology and healthcare become more intertwined, the trust now wants to build on its 300-year culture of innovation with the launch of a programme that it is jointly leading with its charity, CW+.

Known as CW Innovation, it looks to identify and deliver initiatives addressing some of the most pressing challenges that healthcare providers face at the moment, and is described by the charity as “the only programme of its kind in a UK acute hospital setting, bridging the public and commercial healthcare sectors”.

CW+ and the trust have been working together to develop what they call a “pipeline of ‘test and scale’ innovation projects” to be deployed across the organisation and more widely across the NHS.

The Mum & Baby app, which offers new parents advice and information to help them look after their baby and after themselves, is part of this. Developed with the maternity team at the trust, it is now being deployed across the North West London catchment area and other NHS maternity centres.

So is the Acute Diagnostic Oncology Clinic, a fast-track service launched in 2017 for patients referred from primary care with a clinical suspicion of cancer.

WHY IT MATTERS

Chris Chaney, chief executive of CW+, said the programme represented a “new challenge” for its team. 

“When I first took on my role here, this was a one-man band,” he explained yesterday. Now, CW+ is managing a portfolio of over 70 projects, and their ambition is to take this initiative further.

“It is (…) incredibly important that your aspirations don’t stop here in this building or in this community, that actually you have a bigger leadership role, because hospitals like this, and I know you feel this, you do have a responsibility. And that responsibility is to take innovation at scale,” former health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said at the launch event.

The slow uptake of innovations has long been a problem for the NHS. But innovation isn’t the issue, O’Shaughnessy cautioned.

“We are a creative bunch. We are good at coming up with ideas. But the trouble is, and this is what I heard lots and lots of times during my time [as health minister]. I remember going out to Arab Health, a big, big global health conference, meeting lots of fantastic British-based innovators (…).

“And I said, ‘Well how is it going selling into the NHS?’ (…) and the word stuck would come up. ‘We’ve got this thing, we’ve got it into a handful of trusts or a handful of departments, but it’s got stuck.’ And that is what we all collectively need to fix. We need to stop our best ideas getting stuck and we need to get them to scale,” he said.

CW+ should work with the trust to find the best ideas, in and outside the NHS, that can be taken nationally and internationally, he added. “And so we start to change that paradigm to one that is not fearful of innovation across the NHS, but which is embracing it,” O’Shaughnessy said.

ON THE RECORD

Commenting on the new initiative, Lesley Watts, chief executive of the trust, said: “CW Innovation is designed to connect the frontline clinical and operational staff and partner organisations, both in and outside of the NHS. We strongly believe it will lead to improvements in the care we provide to our patients and the way we run our hospitals.”

Dr Nick Scott-Ram, strategic development chief at Sensyne Health, which is one of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital's innovation partners, added: “We are delighted to be working with the trust to analyse anonymised patient data using Sensyne Health’s clinical artificial intelligence technology, and collaborate in digital health and biomedical research to gain new insights to improve the care of patients at the Trust.

“We have seen first-hand how the teams here have developed a proactive and open environment enabling the introduction and evaluation of the latest clinical and digital innovations including those from Sensyne Health.”