Consultancy and research
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS wanted to look at ways to enhance innovation in healthcare and education in the Tees Valley within budget. The Trust wanted to overcome the reluctance to invest and to develop ideas into prototypes. They also wanted to look into ways of keeping recognition for the development of new technologies with the NHS, and reducing NHS IP being sold to private companies.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and Teesside University signed an agreement to form a powerful strategic partnership, to work in collaboration through advanced education, training, research and innovation within the healthcare environment.
Teesside University and the Trust joined the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria to increase innovation.
The University has specifically helped the trust overcome their own resistance to how innovation should be funded. The trust wanted to harness the good ideas and work with industry partners to test these on the front line.
The Trust worked with the engineering department with students working on projects to take to the point of testing, so they can access top-of-the-range skills, brilliant facilities and industry partners to develop ideas together.
Since the signing of the strategic partnership, two innovation projects have been particularly progressive.
The first student project was for a birthing stool to support patients in labour and birth. The University provided in-house design, model exploration and was built by Dr David Hughes and engineering students in just six months from commission. A robust prototype was built from infection-control materials, which has been used in active birthing classes and in birth. An evaluation programme is being rolled out, involving up to 10 mothers, to explore its viability. The University has been instrumental in taking this idea from prototype to evaluation with live patients, is hoping to finalise the innovation.
The engineering department is working on the second project, which is a leg lifter prototype, following an idea by the Trust’s back care advisor. Many patients with back problems are unable to lift their legs whilst sitting down which creates ulcers and wounds – this means that carers try to help lift patients’ legs, which can weigh up to a stone, to treat them and then end up being off work themselves with back injuries. A concept was drawn up and within weeks had an approach for how it could work and are now seeking to develop it and commercialise it in the long-term.
The Trust has also worked with the University on a mobile app and video production and NHS consultants are going into the School of Health & Social Care as guest lecturers.
I cannot speak highly enough of Teesside University – they are always positive and want to make it work for the Trust. We have moved the relationship on from traditional health care applications and are benefiting from the University’s contacts and relationships spanning 20 years. Linda, David and other colleagues are really engaging, are completely supportive of what we want to do and never negative, even when things do not work out initially, as is the nature of innovation. The ultimate benefit is that these projects will save the NHS money in the long-term and the University’s skills and facilities have already helped to develop ideas to the next stage. Success is getting one or two projects over the line to hang our hat on and to get these embedded into service in our Trust and other NHS Foundation Trusts. Commercialisation is clearly part of our ethos and strategy: to be at the frontline of innovations for our Trust and patients.