3 December 2018 by Nick Sawyer




The 16th Digital Ecosystem event was booked up weeks in advance. This was the first time the four northern AHSNs and the ECH Alliance put their “collective ecosystem events together,” as introduced by host Richard Stubbs, CEO for Yorkshire and Humber AHSN.

@RichardDStubbs @AHSN_YandH


Liz Mear, CEO for the Innovation Agency, said it was a chance to “meet, think about how we’re all working together, and collaborate for the future”. Linda Whalley (Strategic Advisor from Health Innovation Manchester) thought it was a chance to “join the dots to accelerate spread and adoption… and help us to navigate through the bureaucracies of the system.”

@MearLiz @HealthInnovMCR @InnovationNWC @AHSN_NENC


The words most often quoted were people, interoperability and culture. Bleddyn Rees from the event organising partner ECH Alliance gave a powerful speech saying in no uncertain terms that it was “you” who needed to instigate the digital transformation of the NHS.

@bleddyn_rees @ECHAlliance


Digital transformation on a scale as large as the NHS will not be driven by any one person or any one piece of artificially intelligent technology, but by individuals making the small steps necessary to embrace digital from the ground up; a notion shared and repeated throughout the day and on twitter.



Bleddyn also spoke of how digital health innovation could be as global as med-tech and pharma, showcased by the example that “Barcelona FC has 30 clinical members of staff, one PET CT scanner, 5 others scanners, 15 ultrasounds, and 2,500 professional athletes across 9 sports, and an innovation lab looking at digital health.” He also mentioned that despite adversity, 'Apple' managed to create its own global digital eco-system.



Victoria Betton from mHabitat had a contrary view to Bleddyn Rees' previous global 'Steve Jobs' analogy for the NHS, saying how she believed that the health industry has to deal with so many more complexities, it will be very difficult to drive innovative ideas to the same pace and scale. That said, the beauty of the Steve Jobs analogy is that:

"the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do" (Steve Jobs)



One idea that sparked an immediate response was Great North Care Record's 'Informatics in the Pub.' One participant said: "nowhere else do I get to talk about the role of digital in patient-centred health".

I'm always happy to talk about anything in a pub, and so to turn this social occasion into something informal and productive, seemed like an absolute gem of an idea.

This idea was so strong, it was picked up and rolled out that evening by someone else.


You are walking this hospital into the valley of death

It was then that Matthew Gardner from Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals showed the eye-popping slide above, a quote from a clinician as they proposed going paper-free. 

"No, we didn’t end up in the valley of death. We’ve seen 3,000,000 forms digitised with significant cost efficiencies, avoidable deaths that have been attributed with our sepsis pathways, and we’ve also seen reductions in cardiac arrests."

It was amazing to see the reaction to new initiatives from clinicians. More interestingly however, we heard how the clinician who made this quote has now become one of the front-runners for digital transformation within the hospital.


It was clear it was up to everyone to help shift a culture change in the NHS to allow for successful spread and adoption of innovations.


The event closed with eight great SMEs giving 3-minute pitches about their products.



Want to find out more from the day's speakers?

See below for quotes, links, video interviews, presentation podcasts and slides.



Bleddyn Rees speaking about the ECH Alliance

@bleddyn_rees @ECHAlliance

Bleddyn mentioned a couple of projects the ECH Alliance were working on:

1. A moonshot mission proposed by the Digital Health Society (DHS), aiming for 100 million Digitally Connected Healthy EU citizens by 2027.


“We think the European Commission should fund that to the tune of about £1,000,000,000 (one billion pounds)” – in line with average investment from the European Commission for projects such as this.

2. Digital health observatory: “Trying to make sure there is a published section about evidence, interesting papers on anything to do with digital and health transformation, for members of the ECH Alliance, this is a free PR facility where you can publish papers, whether they’re white papers that you might have produced for businesses or otherwise.”




Next Up, Paul Rice, Head of Technology Strategy for NHS England, speaking of Future Digital Opportunities


Paul Rice spoke of a digital transformation portfolio that would act as a "wrap around that works across NHS England, NHS Improvement and our partners in NHS digital, then out into local organisations. Organised by these key blocks:"


He then started to talk about social media and how it was "completely revolutionising the power of relationships, and the insights for people living with and managing conditions."

He recommended a podcast called You, Me and the Big C:

“The Last Podcast is particularly moving and very very difficult to listen to, because she was trying to capture a record of her life and transfer that on to her young son. But it’s been remarkably accessible and invigorating for people I think about living and managing through that condition. And it’s a world that the NHS doesn’t have to grasp or grapple with, it’s a world that the NHS just has to watch and respect, and make sure that we direct and orientate people as appropriate to some of these other resources going forward.”

Paul then noted Liz O'Riordon and her blog, "which is about her experience of moving from being a cancer clinician to a woman managing and living with breast cancer."




Sarah Rodgers then came to present 'digital opportunities within academia.'


Sarah was recently appointed Professor of Health Informatics for the University of Liverpool, but offered some really interesting examples from her previous role at Swansea University.

Most notably was the example of how there was a "40% reduction in emergency hospital admission for people having electrical systems installed in their homes, such as extractor fans in their kitchens and bathrooms.”



Q&A session, with questions via



Dr Victoria Betton, MD from mHabitat, collaboration and codesign

@VictoriaBetton @wearemHabitat

Dr Victoria Betton helped us to understand the processes mHabitat have implemented to be able to successfully drive innovation within the NHS, showcasing a useful innovation pathway in her slides (click below to see slides).

She also explained how there were “barriers which came up really strongly such as non-alignment with the NHS priorities.” 

“What we've been learning over the last four-and-a-half/five years is how you blend the service improvement methodology we are familiar with in the NHS, with human-centred design approaches, with agile software development, but also folding in things like GDPR clinical safety and evidence generation.”




Becoming a Global Digital Exemplar, Chris Chapman, Salford Royal


Chris was the first GDE of the day, showcasing the processes Salford Royal have implemented to become an 'Exemplar.'

Chris explained how “being open and honest in a candid way is more important,” and how "sharing is the core of our GDE programme.”




Louise Wilson gave us an introduction into The Great North Care Record


“The Great North Care Record makes information appropriate for individual healthcare service planning and research.”

“It is all about information sharing, all about having the right information at the point of care in phase one.”

“It is happening and this is something that is going on; 100% of GP practices in the North East and North Cumbria are sharing information this way. That translates to 80,000 views per calendar month, so that is 80,000 instances in which somebody has access to a bit more information to enable a better conversation than they had previously.”

“So…this event is about innovation and adoption and I have heard the word 'assets.' Of course, the greatest assets we have are people, and that’s citizens, patients, public and Practitioners.”

The Great North Care record was highlighted as a great project throughout the day, and you start to understand why from Louise's presentation. Although she explained how it was still very much an "ongoing process." 

Listen and See Louise's presentation here: 




Matthew Gardner, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen GDE Programme.

@matt_gardner__ @RoyalLpoolHosps


Matthew explained how "digital change is one-third of a paradigm of what fundamentally is an adaptive change, it’s the 'what can I realise with SMEs in the room? (in terms of technological intervention)'. It’s the human factor, fundamentally the people, and then it’s also quite frankly the financial incentive, some element of capital. There is a financial incentive for that organisation to actually engage and collaborate around the digital."




Pitches from SMEs with digital innovations

See below to businesses who pitched:


A leading digital media agency, that produces creative game-changing digital content and apps, across all media platforms, to deliver measurable results.


Inovus Medical - The world's leader in affordable healthcare simulation.


We develop biosensor diagnostics to detect disease earlier and more accurately than current methods. SEM Scanner: #pressureulcers OrthoSonos: #osteoarthritis


A UK leader in digital health & remote patient monitoring: Hypertension, smoking cessation, anticoagulation, diabetes, care homes, falls, COPD, pain, PROMS


A former Microsoft Partner of the Year for Public Sector (Government) globally, IEG4 deliver solutions to drive digital transformation and automation


Over 24 years experience in digital and social sectors. Passionate about positive social change, digital innovation and providing quality services.


Healthcare Communications is #1 in-patient communications software and digital healthcare dedicated to the NHS. #digitalhealth

Insight into maternity outpatient innovations Read more

Hello My Name is Mandy, I am a biomedical scientist and I work in Patient Safety at the Innovation Agency. I know that I am truly lucky, working across the whole North West Coast to help frontline services improve. My..

Bruin wins Bionow Product of the Year Read more

Cheshire-based Bruin Biometrics (BBI) Europe Limited were winners at the annual Bionow awards.

Award for linking Aintree Hospital with community pharmacies Read more

An initiative linking hospitals with community pharmacies in Cheshire and Merseyside to improve patient safety has won a national award.

Wonderful women Read more

Following the launch of NHS Employers’ #WonderfulWomenWhoDo campaign I have been reflecting on some of the wonderful women in my life.

All the latest from the Innovation Agency...

Health Coaching