Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria

Impact Report


Scroll to view the interactive Impact Report

Foreword by Dr. Nicola Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer, AHSN NENC

The Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria entered its 10th year in 2023, and as we reach this milestone it gives me great pleasure to showcase what the organisation has achieved over the last year.

The health and social care landscape is continuously evolving and needs to adapt to the needs of the communities they serve. Here in the North East and North Cumbria, the AHSN NENC is proud to play an instrumental role in identifying and addressing unmet healthcare and patient safety needs as well as reducing healthcare inequalities.

Our established relationships with partners across the regional health ecosystem enable us to lead the way when it comes to accelerating innovation within the sector. During 2022-23 we have supported many innovators with the development and deployment of transformative solutions through our Innovation Pathway.

We have also brought the sector together to launch the Health and Life Sciences Pledge, which aims to collectively tackle challenges within the system and to celebrate our unique assets and infrastructure in the region.

As you will see in this report, we are committed to delivering programmes of work which help to reduce health inequalities. We have included examples of some of this work such as our Cardiovascular Disease Prevention programme; supporting the improvement in the quality and safety of maternity and neonatal care; and our role in the regional delivery of the National Polypharmacy Programme in partnership with the NENC Integrated Care System, to name a few.

We also spotlight the work of our Digital Team who have made great strides in our mission to drive inclusive digital transformation across the North East and North Cumbria.

This report provides a snapshot of the AHSN NENC successes of the last year and showcases the important role of AHSNs in supporting the development and spread of innovation across health regional services.

As we look to the year ahead, there is much to celebrate, as well as our 10th anniversary, the wonderful NHS is celebrating 75 years of service.

We are very much looking forward to continuing to work closely with partners to support the development and adoption of even more transformative health and care innovations for the benefit of the people and the economy of the North East and North Cumbria.

An introduction to

Reducing Health Inequalities

The last year has seen some exciting new initiatives for the AHSN NENC health improvement team. We have continued to have a particular focus on addressing risk factors that contribute to the high levels of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in our ICB. We have successfully bid for funding as part of the Innovation for Health Inequalities Programme (InHIP) which is supporting a project that will increase our understanding of the challenges that communities in Middlesbrough have engaging with annual CVD checks. We are delivering this important programme in collaboration with our colleagues at the NIHR ARC NENC and with the Cardiac Prevention Clinical Network. We have also attracted further funding to explore how we might increase access to cholesterol testing for those in disadvantaged communities through a new scheme call the System Transformation Fund (STF). This programme also incorporates support for an SBRI grant awarded to the company who has developed this innovative cholesterol testing pathway.

Our national leadership of the AHSN Network/AAC Lipid Optimisation and Familial Hypercholesterolaemia programme came to an end in March and we are now supporting the handover of the programme to a new CVD AHSN Network national programme, celebrating the huge achievements and ensuring a sustainable model that have come from our support of this program.

Other national programmes of work delivered in partnership with our ICB have included the National Polypharmacy Programme and our National Insight Priorities Programme (NIPP) which is focusing on supporting primary care to address the challenges of high levels of opioid prescribing. Areas of local health programme work have focussed upon Respiratory, Mental Health and Pain.

Professor Julia Newton, Medical Director, AHSN NENC

Case study

Identifying and Treating Patients with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia

AHSN NENC has participated in a 3-year National Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) and Lipids Programme, and has worked with partners including Northern England Clinical Networks, Heart UK, BHF, Northern Genetics Service, secondary care lipid specialists, primary care, pharmacists and patients to support identification of people with undiagnosed FH.

Find out more

Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) affects 1 in 250 people and is an under-diagnosed genetic condition.

34 million people worldwide are impacted, of which 80% are undiagnosed.

During 2022/2023 the Primary Care Network (PCN) Direct Enhanced Service (DES) included incentives to encourage GP practices to find patients who may have FH.

Case study

Polypharmacy National Programme

In 2022-23 the AHSN NENC delivered the Polypharmacy Programme: Getting the Balance Right.

Find out more

The programme aims to support local systems and primary care to identify patients at potential risk of harm and support better conversations about medicines by promoting shared decision making.

A North East and North Cumbria Polypharmacy Community of Practice (CoP) was set up in September 2022 which underpins the programme.

The programme has promoted an improvement in joined up working, sharing of information and resources and provides the opportunity to link in with peers from across the large NENC ICS geography.

An introduction to

Transforming Patient Safety

The AHSN NENC Patient Safety Collaborative (PSC) is a pivotal delivery vehicle for NHS England’s Patient Safety Strategy and the team are committed to improving the regions health and patient safety outcomes by successfully delivering the five National Safety Improvement Programmes (NAT SIPs).  The PSC team work with regional and national partners across health and social care to support the delivery of these five programmes and through co-design, co-delivery and co-investment, have generated improvement across all programmes during 2022/23.

This years commission has built on previous years’ work across four of the programmes and introduced a new fifth System Safety programme. Our current programmes are:

  • Maternity & Neonates (optimisation and stabilisation of the pre-term infant; early recognition and management of deterioration of women and babies)
  • Medicines Safety (improving the care of people living with chronic pain)
  • Managing Deterioration (reducing deterioration associated harm by improving prevention, identification, escalation and response to physical deterioration)
  • Mental Health (reducing the use of restrictive practice)
  • System Safety to support organisations with the implementation of the new Patient Safety Incident Response Framework.

All programmes have delivered significant impact, with some now achieving sustainability where the safety intervention is fully and consistently embedded within the clinical pathway.

The following are two examples of the successes delivered by the NENC PSC team

Wendy Halliburton, Patient Safety Lead & Programme Lead for System Safety SIP, AHSN NENC

Case study

Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme (MatNeoSIP)

The Maternity and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme (MatNeoSIP) is a national programme and has been running since 2017. Each year priorities are identified, and for 2022/23 one of these was the focus on reducing the sometimes devastating impacts of preterm births.

Find out more

During 2022/23 348 babies received optimal cord management.

During 2022/23 178 eligible babies (< 34 weeks) received intrapartum antibiotics.

For 2022/23 the programme has been focusing on seven interventions which impact on preterm births (<34 weeks gestation).

Case study

Medicines Safety Improvement Programme (MedSIP)

The Medicines Safety Improvement Programme (MedSIP) aims to reduce severe avoidable medication related harm by 50% by March 2024 through medicines optimisation and quality improvement.

Find out more

The team delivered a system-wide pain and opioid face-to-face event: Feeling the Pain which was held on in November 2022.

The event attracted 85 delegates, from various disciplines, who came together to share their practices and experiences of chronic pain management.

The event hosted the launch of the NENC Pain Clinical Network.

An introduction to

Support role of NHS in health and social recovery

The AHSN Network is mandated by NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Office for Life Sciences to support the development, evaluation, adoption and diffusion of innovations across the NHS to improve health outcomes and support in health and social care recovery.

Working collaboratively with NHS staff, partners and members across primary care, secondary care and the wider health and care sector, we identify unmet needs and facilitate the development of innovations to address these challenges.

Case study

The FeNO Programme

As a key partner of NHS England’s Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), the AHSN Network has supported the rollout of Fractional exhaled Nitric Oxide (FeNO) testing to improve the asthma pathway in England as part of the AAC Rapid Uptake Products (RUP) programme.

Find out more

An estimated 1,112 additional patients benefited from diagnostic FeNO testing.

10 Pathway Transformation Fund projects were completed to support wider adoption of FeNO.

67 people attended webinars and learning collaboratives related to FeNO.

Over 3,000 tests per month were administered.

An introduction to

Support cohesion of regional infrastructure to operationalise IP

The Importance of Innovation to Drive Health Improvements

The AHSN NENC is committed to bringing commercially viable and sustainable innovations to address the many health challenges facing our society. Our mission is aligned with the UK Life Sciences Vision to solve some of the biggest healthcare problems of our generation.

Innovation is key to driving this vision and the AHSN NENC is a key delivery partner of innovation in the health and care sector. Through delivering innovation with our partners and stakeholders the AHSN NENC provides a unique role supporting the development, adoption and scale up of proven innovations.

Case study

Revolutionising LVO stroke detection

Treating patients with strokes quickly in specialist units is critical to improving recovery. However, there are many other conditions that produce the same symptoms, such as migraine and epilepsy. Around 40% of patients initially suspected as having a stroke by paramedics are later given a different diagnosis. Treatments for certain severe strokes are available only in a limited number of regional specialist stroke centres. This leads to some patients receiving treatment late, or not at all, when compared to patients who live near to a regional centre.

Find out more

There are around 100,000 strokes every year in the UK; that is one every five minutes.

The NENC ecosystem came together to support the trial and subsequent adoption of a rapid diagnostic test to identify large vessel occlusion in minutes, the test is called LVOne.

It is estimated the portable test could save the NHS £2 billion annually, avoid disabilities and save lives.

Case study

Health and Life Sciences Pledge

The Health and Life Sciences Pledge is a promise to encourage, enable and empower more innovation, by bringing together all key stakeholders to better communicate, collaborate and celebrate.

Find out more

Collectively address regional health and social care challenges, supporting the reduction in health inequalities.

Gain recognition for our unique infrastructure and assets on both a national and international stage.

Working cohesively to identify opportunities and attract investment to our region.

Collectively celebrating our collective success.

Case study

The Innovation Pathway

The Innovation Pathway, created by the AHSN NENC, enables innovators from the NHS and industry sectors to access bespoke services covering the entire innovation life cycle.

Find out more

Whether an individual or a team, NHS led or a business, innovators from all backgrounds and sectors can access the expertise and services provided by the AHSN NENC and partners.

An introduction to

Use digital solutions as an enabler

It has been a year of significant growth and achievements across the digital portfolio within the Digital Transformation Team. We have continued to develop strong relationships with our primary care digital colleagues as well as across the emerging new structures and the ICB.

We now have some well-established digital programmes such as Digital Champions, a partnership with the Digital first primary care team at NHSE and Redmoor Health, Digital Inclusion and Mental Health which you can read more about below.

Plus, we continue to support early-stage digital innovation through programmes of work including our Primary Care Innovation Fund and also the North of Tyne Digital Accelerator Programme. In this programme we see some exciting new approaches to using digital and technology to support health and care services alongside evaluating existing solutions in real world settings.

Next year we hope to focus on expanding our network and work programme to further support secondary care services, social care and really expand our digital industry connections. Furthermore, we aim to establish some interest and working groups to help the system consider the opportunities and challenges around new emerging digital approaches such as AI and RPA as well as thinking about how we support the local system to become the go to region for digital innovation in health.

Case study

Using technology to assist those with severe mental illness

Since the 2016 Five Year Forward View and, more recently, the NHS Long Term Plan, there has been a stated aim to improve the physical health of people with serious mental illnesses (SMI).

Find out more

People with SMI in England:

Die on average 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population.

Have 3.7 times higher death rate for ages under 75 than the general population.

5 times higher for liver disease.

4.7 times higher for respiratory disease.

3.3 times higher for cardiovascular disease.

2 times higher for cancer.

Experience a widening gap in death rates over time.

Case study

Digital Champions

Digital is revolutionising how we deliver patient care, however it’s important that we recognise the scale of these changes without compromising the training and support needs of our primary care workforce, encompassing general practice, pharmacy, optometry and dentistry.

Find out more

The programme was delivered in an action learning style where digital champions come together as a community of practice for a minimum of 12 months to share and learn and apply best practice.

In the first year 79 digital champions were trained.

Case study

Digital Inclusion

Digital technology is changing the way health and care services are delivered, so it’s important that we address digital inclusion so that no one is left behind. The challenge for many services is that a significant proportion of people are currently digitally excluded and this impacts directly on health outcomes.

Find out more

With 10 million people in the UK lacking digital skills, 2 million people in 2022 not being able to afford internet and the north east having the largest percentage of people with limited user experience, digital inclusion is a key priority.

To address this, the AHSN NENC established a regional forum which aimed to bring together key stakeholders interested in digital inclusion.