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20 June 2022

NHS England directors took part in a showcase of Innovation Agency collaborations in a visit to three Liverpool trusts.  

Matt Whitty, Director for Innovation, Research and Life Sciences; Dr Tim Ferris, Director of Transformation and Jacqui Rock, Chief Commercial Officer were among the visitors who spent a day finding out what we do in system partnerships; CVD prevention and respiratory care; and supporting innovators. NHSE Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard joined the tour for part of the day.

The day was organised to demonstrate the impacts of our work and was part of a national tour of all Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) led by Matt Whitty.

Matt Whitty, who is also Chief Executive of the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative, said: “It was fantastic to meet some of the people who are innovating and working collaboratively to make our health services more efficient and productive, for the benefit of patients.

“There are 15 AHSNs like the Innovation Agency, working hand in hand with local organisations across the country to connect hospital trusts, GPs, care homes and system leaders with the best innovations which have been proved to make a difference.

“AHSNs are key to delivering innovation for the NHS and our visit to Liverpool was a chance to see some of the impact of their work, as well as some of the brilliant research and innovation being led by the trusts.”

The showcase took place in three trusts: Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS Foundation Trust and Alder Hey NHS Foundation Trust.

The first part of the visit focussed on system partnerships and heard about an innovative ‘sponge on a string’ diagnostic test which is set to improve cancer care – an example of the Innovation Agency’s work with Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance.

The potentially life-saving device, known as Cytosponge, helps to identify people most at risk of oesophageal cancer – cancer of the gullet – and is being made available close to patients’ homes.

The Innovation Agency helped secure £500,000 from the SBRI Healthcare fund to spread Cytosponge from secondary services into the community, relieving pressure on hospital endoscopy teams.

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre Chief Executive Dr Liz Bishop described how the flagship city centre hospital, which opened in June 2020, is transforming cancer care in Cheshire and Merseyside, thanks to pioneering new services and research including a study on cancer vaccines that ‘train’ the immune system.

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre has led the way nationally in services and support for patients receiving novel immunotherapies for their cancer, building on its long tradition of innovation in care including chemotherapy at home and in the workplace.

Consultant Medical Oncologist Professor Christian Ottensmeier spoke about the first-in-human trials that he is bringing to Liverpool in collaboration with pharma partners and his pioneering research with international colleagues on how immunotherapies could be made even more effective without extra toxicity. 

At Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, the visitors viewed a system which can analyse a CT scan of a heart within four hours, helping patients to avoid unnecessary procedures and helping clinicians to quickly identify the right treatment.

Consultant Cardiologist Dr Tim Fairbairn was one of the first in the country to use HeartFlow, which helps clinicians to determine, vessel by vessel, both the extent of an artery’s narrowing and the impact that the narrowing has on blood flow to the heart.

Dr Tim Fairbairn said: “Technology like this has helped us make real steps forward when it comes to cardiovascular care. In our practice, many patients who have a HeartFlow analysis avoid the need for further invasive testing. As a result, this enables us to treat patients more quickly, leading to an improved patient experience and a positive impact on waiting times for other non-invasive stress tests.”

HeartFlow is supported by the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative and AHSNs are helping to increase its use across the country.

The Innovation Agency also introduced innovative work on CVD prevention and respiratory care, including lipids management, reducing health inequalities and helping to design a new pathway for pulmonary rehabilitation.

At Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, visitors met two of the businesses supported by the Innovation Agency, 3D LifePrints and Inovus Medical; and heard about our excellent results on economic growth – supporting 487 businesses with health innovations; creating 57 jobs and securing £21.7m investment.

They learned about LYVA Labs, a new venture fund for early-stage health innovations backed by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Innovation Agency Director of Enterprise and Growth Lorna Green developed the concept for the fund and is currently on secondment as founding chief executive.

Dr Phil Jennings, Chief Executive of the Innovation Agency said: “There is amazing innovation happening in our region – in hospitals, in primary care and with our local businesses. I was very proud to introduce some of our innovators and health leaders to national NHS colleagues so they can see how we are working together to improve services for the local population and to boost our local economy.”

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