New award scheme aims to spark NHS digital revolution

30 April 2015 By Northern Lights

New award scheme aims to spark NHS digital revolution image

unawardsPatients are innovating faster and cheaper than the NHS, using digital technologies to make acute and chronic health problems easier to live with – and saving the NHS considerable funds.  Yet there is no process to find and develop the best of these technologies.

A unique partnership of patients and health professionals is launching a new awards scheme to unearth the technologies being created across the UK from Cornwall to Scotland.  The organisers are calling for digital innovations that are improving people’s health and well-being and encouraging the public – and especially patients, carers and healthcare professionals – to make nominations. The organisers will champion the best products and bring them to the attention of NHS officials – including grass-root innovations from NHS and healthcare professionals.

One of the founders of the unAwards, Victoria Betton, mHealth Programme Director at Leeds & York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, says:  “A group of us has come across the most amazing products, apps and digitally based services, created by ordinary people.  These are not only helping patients in quite extraordinary ways, but often saving the NHS considerable money.  We want to unearth more of these technologies, encourage others to develop their ideas and help the NHS to find and use these products.”

Two examples of problem-solving technologies are apps created by patients, Ostom-I Alert and Doc Ready.

Michael Seres created Ostom-I Alert from his hospital bed following a bowel transplant.  The financial savings mean the device is now prescribed by the NHS and has full US FDA approval.

Michael had no way of knowing how quickly his stoma bag was filling, often resulting in leaks – particularly at night.  He discussed the problems with 20,000 fellow sufferers on social media and produced a device for bags which sends signals to a free mobile app with alarms.  It also sends information to health professionals to simplify monitoring – saving 33% of NHS costs against existing care.

Mark Brown realised how difficult it was for young people with mental health problems to talk to their GPs and, along with a Comic Relief funded team, created the Doc Ready app.  This helps young people to collect information before visiting a GP, and takes them through what they should explain to their doctor.  Launched two years ago with support from Stephen Fry, more than 3,000 young people have used the app.  In evaluation, 77% of those using the app said they felt more able to take control and make up their own minds about their treatment.

Victoria Betton explained why the unAwards:  “We have all been to dozens of ‘same old’ events over the last year, where the patient is often an after-thought and the real innovations are never found.  Our unAwards are free and easy to enter so we have the best chance of unearthing new talent. This approach is critical to the future of healthcare in the UK – bringing ground-up innovators to the attention of NHS officials”.

The awards follow on from the People Driven Digital Health and Wellbeing unConference on 13 and 14 May for digital entrepreneurs, where Tim Kelsey, national director of patients and information at NHS England, will launch a small innovation fund to develop ideas that emerge from the day. Details of the funds – from Comic Relief, University of Leeds and Big White Wall – are being finalised and expected to be around £20k.

Tim Kelsey said: “We need to drive more ground-up digital innovation and help digital entrepreneurs make a difference in achieving our vision set out in Personalised Health and Care 2020. The unConference and UnAwards are a great way of harnessing the innovation already happening and making more people aware of the difference it can make to patient experience, outcomes and efficient use of resources.”

The founders of the awards are Victoria Betton @VictoriaBetton, Anne Cooper @anniecoops, Mark Brown @MarkOneinFour, Kat Cormack @KittyCormack and Michael Seres @mjseres.  They are sponsored by The King’s Fund, Big White Wall, The Tinder Foundation, LASA, NHS Confederation and HIMSS.

To nominate a digital health and wellbeing product, go to

Roy Lilley, health commentator and writer, will present the awards in Leeds on 3 July 2015.


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Written by Northern Lights

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