Q&A on the Bright Ideas in Health Awards

By Charlotte Fox,18th September 2018

Our Innovation Manager Charlotte Fox was previously an Innovation Manager at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and shares with us her experience from an entrant’s perspective.

What is the best way to identify innovations within a Trust?

I’ve worked as an Innovation manager in the NHS for four years now. The very first step I took when I first came into my post as Innovation Manager at City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust (CHSFT) was to ‘google’ the term Innovation. It was a new buzzword, a word I’d started hearing more and more often.  After four years I’ve learnt that Innovation is more than creativity and having a great idea- it’s a discipline, a process- of taking a great idea, assessing the market, developing prototypes and proving your theories- taking this learning and shifting the design and development, manufacturing and ultimate commercialisation. After all, an innovation isn’t truly an innovation until it’s implemented in practice and can be shown to have a beneficial effect to customers- in the NHS this can be patients, staff and other relevant stakeholders.

So where do you start in an NHS Trust- to identify ideas and unmet needs? The first step for us was to set up an infrastructure that enabled us to manage innovation. Over the space of 3 years CHSFT has grown its innovation department to include a director for Research and Innovation, two deputy directors of Innovation, an innovation manager and an administrative assistant. The department is supported by four innovation scouts who between them cover the Trust to identify and assess bright ideas- bright ideas are innovative ideas that come from staff within the Trust. These bright ideas are then assessed and facilitated depending on whether they are device/ digital innovations or service/ quality improvement innovations. An innovation review group meets quarterly to discuss the ideas and how they should be taken forward- the group is represented by members of key spoke departments throughout the organisation- IT, Clinical Governance, Commercial Team, Service Improvement, Medical Physics and others- the group ensures accountability and a clear governance structure which reports to board level.

How do you encourage people to come to you with their bright ideas?

By working with established teams and groups of people that span the organisation you can raise awareness of the department and how staff can get in touch with their ideas. At CHSFT we helped staff get the recognition they deserve for their ideas through awards ceremonies like the Bright Ideas in Health Awards.  Over the years City Hospitals Sunderland has been very successful at these awards. A lot of that success wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the assistance of Andrew Turner of Quality Hospital Solutions who has been able to use his expertise to prototype and commercialise a number of innovations from within the Trust. Having great relationships with companies and local universities has really driven the innovation agenda at City Hospitals Sunderland- the team are now using these relationships as well as the infrastructure, processes and lessons learnt to facilitate innovation across the wider healthcare group to include South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.

What is the process of entering the awards

The great thing about the Bright Ideas in Health Awards is that it’s easy to enter! Unlike many healthcare applications the application is really short and concise, it really won’t take you long and it really helps formulate your idea in your mind.

What are the benefits of entering the BIHA from an entrants point of view

Entering the awards and being shortlisted is a great way for staff to get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work. Every entrant has gone above and beyond in their role and the Bright Ideas Awards ensures that they can be given the credit they are warranted.

Do you have any first hand examples of where the BIHA has really benefitted patients

In 2016 the Stroke Patient Carer Panel won, this was a wonderful opportunity for the organisation to say thank you to all the patients and carers who contribute to research within the region.

Has your viewpoint changed since you have joined the AHSN NENC?

Now in my new role as Innovation Manager for the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria  I have the privilege to work with all the Foundation Trusts, CCGs and Universities within our region- to find out about all the different innovations. It’s amazing what our region has achieved in terms of innovation- and people need to shout out about it! Don’t be afraid to enter the awards- let us know what you are up to and also let us know how we can help! By visiting our website you can find out more about the work we do and how we can help you to innovate for patient benefit.