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Patients get better care thanks to innovative healthcare staff

  • Published date:
    3 June 2011

Innovative ideas get financial boost

Frontline NHS staff and other healthcare professionals who come up with innovative ideas to give better patient care are getting their schemes funded thanks to the Department of Health’s Innovation Challenge Prizes – the first winners of which have been announced today.

The awards support plans to give all NHS staff the power and freedom to innovate to deliver better patient care.

All the winners have proven that their innovation can improve patient care and deliver savings for the NHS.  They were all developed to tackle the problems staff saw their patients facing in day-to-day treatment.

The winning ideas are:

  • Dialysis at home – developed by Manchester Royal Infirmary to allow patients to have dialysis in their own homes – this is more convenient for patients and saves the local NHS £16,430 per patient every year on average.
  • Cytosponge – a new pill that runs into a sponge – a simple new way to test for oesophagal cancer that costs just £25 per test compared to the £400 cost of a traditional endoscopy.  This was developed by the Cambridge Medical Research Council Cancer Unit and Addenbrookes University Hospitals. 
  • Scriptswitch – a computer programme used by staff at NHS Bristol to share information on nutritional supplements prescribed to patients between hospitals and GP surgeries so that they can identify patterns and prescribe more efficiently leading to projected savings of £156,000 per year.

Health Minister Lord Howe said:

“All NHS staff have the power to improve services for patients – we want to give them the freedom to use it.

“We need to support innovation in the NHS, not suffocate it. In every hospital, GP practice and clinic we need to ensure innovation can flourish by supporting clinicians to develop new ways of thinking and delivering care to benefit patients and the NHS. 

“Innovation is essential to help the NHS modernise by delivering more for less – improving the quality of care for patients whilst at the same time saving money.”

Dr Sandip Mitra, who leads the renal team at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said:

 “Manchester is proud to have a highly skilled team which enables and empowers patients to regain control of their lives leading to a higher life expectancy, greater independence, fewer medications and a less restrictive lifestyle on dialysis. This award will inspire the team to continue its efforts to improve patient experiences on dialysis and support other units to establish home haemodialysis programmes.”

David Coil a patient on the Manchester home haemodialysis programme said:

“For me, the best solution is carrying out my home dialysis overnight. This completely frees up my working days giving my life back to me. I can also do longer sessions which give me a better quality of dialysis.

“The result is a very noticeable increase in energy levels and general well-being. The quality of life I enjoy now is as close to having a real kidney as it is possible to get and I strongly recommend it to all haemodialysis patients.”

The Innovation Challenge Prizes have been developed to ensure the NHS continues to be recognised as a world leader in the development of innovative techniques and technologies by rewarding those who help pioneer and modernise new innovations. 

The NHS Challenge Prizes are now looking for the next big ideas from NHS staff, organisations and partners. More challenges can be found at the NHS Innovation Challenge website. The closing date for new applications is 14th August 2011.


Notes to Editors:

  1. For media queries only please contact the Department of Health press office on 0207 210 5221.
  2. Innovation Challenge Prize Awards – More for Less

    Background on award winners:

    First Prize £100,000 - Manchester Royal Infirmary
    Manchester Royal Infirmary developed an innovative approach to redesigning existing dialysis provisions in hospital.  Their innovation meant that some patients could choose home haemodialysis instead of coming into hospital by using dialysis machines designed for the home environment.

    This had substantial effects on service costs for Manchester Royal Infirmary.  If the trust continued to carry on as before with all patients coming into hospital to use dialysis machines, it would have cost NHS Manchester up to £45,629 per patient every year.

    On average home dialysis costs just £26,289 per patient per year, compared with an annual average per patient cost of £40,145 for attendance at Manchester Royal Infirmary or £45,629 for attendance at a satellite clinic. These figures include secondary costs such as patient and carer time costs in addition to the NHS costs.

    Projected annual savings are approximately £1m based on 70 patients receiving at home dialysis.  They have been awarded the maximum prize of £100,000.  This money will be used to improve the service further with the hope of rolling it out across the NHS nationally.

    Kidney failure has a devastating effect on affected individuals. In order to survive, patients need dialysis in the long term or until a donor kidney becomes available. The most common type of dialysis (hospital haemodialysis) means that some patients for example have to travel to hospital several times every week where they receive treatment for up to four hours at time making it more difficult in terms of employment. The same treatment when adapted for home (home haemodialysis) can lead to better outcomes, freedom from hospitals and improved quality of life.

    An innovative approach to dialysis provision in Manchester allows the choice of home haemodialysis to all those who might benefit, and has transformed patient lives with improved outcomes.  A dedicated and highly skilled team led by Dr Sandip Mitra and Sister Gill Dutton empowers patients and has so far trained 180 patients to be independent on haemodialysis at home.

    Second Prize £50,000 - Medical Research Council (MRC) Cancer Cell Unit – Cambridge
    Dr Fitzgerald and her team developed the Cytosponge test. This sponge is enclosed in a pill on a fine medical cord that patients swallow. Once the pill has dissolved, the sponge is released and then pulled back up through their oesophagus or gullet collecting cells on the way.  Once these cells are collected, they can be tested using a new molecular test for Barrett’s Oesophagus cancer, which is the major risk factor for this cancer.

    As well as being beneficial to patients in Cambridge, the Cytosponge could save the NHS millions of pounds per year.  Instead of referring patients to hospital for a costly £400  endoscopy, the Cytosponge can be used in a primary care setting and only costs £25 per test.  If this screening test detects cancer very early then patients can be treated with endoscopy, which is seven times cheaper than an operation and much less invasive for patients. Dr Fitzgerald and her team have been awarded the Innovation Challenge prize for developing an innovation that is both beneficial to patients and saves Cambridgeshire NHS money.  The Cytosponge also has over 90% accuracy for diagnosing the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s Oesophagus Cancer.  It can even be done at the GP surgery without having to be on a waiting list for endoscopy and the results are just as quick.

    The Medical Research Cancer Cell Unit Team have been working with Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge where between 55 and 70 patients are evaluated for possible oesophago-gastric cancer every month.

    The prize money will enable the team to develop the test further to diagnose the other common type of oesophagus cancer (squamous cell cancer) and to collect further data to show how effective the Cytosponge is.

    Third Prize £35,000 - NHS Bristol – Scriptswitch
    NHS Bristol used to spend approximately £722,000 per year on prescriptions for nutritional supplements. Local audit work showed that this prescribing could be reduced significantly, and that practice could be made more evidence-based and cost-effective.

    Oral nutritional supplements are high calorie drinks that are often prescribed by GPs to malnourished patients (for example patients that have a poor appetite). Sometimes the prescribing of these supplements is continued for longer than is needed, and patients are not always advised of the many ways they can improve their diet to help them get the nutrition they need. Sometimes patients are not routinely weighed to see how their treatment is progressing.

    A team at NHS Bristol worked in collaboration with dieticians at a local hospital to identify the best way to drive up quality of care whilst reducing costs. The team made use of an innovative IT program called ScriptSwitch, which works with GP’s computers to provide useful information at the point of prescribing to help them make the best choice, and also to prompt the prescriber to take specific action.

    In this case, ScriptSwitch prompted the prescriber to weigh the patient and provide a useful leaflet on how the patient could improve their diet without relying entirely on costly nutritional supplements.

    The project has yielded savings for the NHS of roughly £13,000 per month - that's £156,000 per year that can be reinvested to front-line care.

    The multi-disciplinary team has been awarded the third prize of £35,000 in the NHS Innovations Challenge awards.  The team in Bristol will now use the prize money to explore a range of options to expand the programme.  One of these options includes getting dieticians to visit malnourished patients in their own homes or in care homes to improve their diet. 
  3. For more detailed information on the Award winners please visit the NHS Institute website

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