Patients in the West of England will be among the first to benefit from a major new drive to modernise how the NHS delivers care, as announced today (Friday 22 January) by NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The West of England Academic Health Science Network will be leading the way in NHS innovation as part of a pioneering ‘Test Bed’ with partners including the regional healthcare community, Corsham Institute, Diabetes UK, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Ki Performance, LeLan and SocialDiabetes, R-Outcomes, Soupdragon Resources and HEOR.

As part of the ‘Diabetes Digital Coach’ Test Bed, people with diabetes and frontline health and care workers across the West (with a population size of 2.4 million) will pioneer and evaluate opportunities to work with the ‘Internet of Things’ through using remote monitoring and coaching technology for better self-management.

The programme, along with six others from around the country, will be unveiled by NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens as part of the first wave of NHS Innovation Test Beds; collaborations between the NHS and innovators that aim to harness technology to address some of the most complex issues facing our population and the health service.

Successful innovations will then be available for other parts of the country to adopt and adapt to the particular needs of their local populations.

The Diabetes Digital Coach programme will bring together mobile health self-management tools (such as wearable sensors and supporting software) with the Internet of Things (IoT). The Test Bed will enable people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes to ‘do the right thing at the right time’ to self-manage their condition, and will encourage more timely and appropriate interventions from peers, healthcare professionals, carers and social networks.

This IoT Test Bed is part of an integrated £40 million, three-year Government programme in collaboration with Innovate UK that seeks to advance the UK’s global leadership in IoT and increase adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

Co-developing the future with patients and leading technology providers

Director of Corsham Institute, Jeffrey Thomas said:

The potential of digital technologies to transform the provision of healthcare, in particular, patient led care for chronic illness is significant. The Corsham Institute is delighted to be part of a talented consortium in testing and developing the Diabetes Digital Coach programme. By providing the NHS and our fellow partners with a trusted, secure and agnostic environment to house data and develop consent driven applications, we are delighted to be helping to create solutions and analytics that add significant value to patients, clinicians and researchers alike.

Lars Sundstrom, Director of Enterprise at the West of England AHSN, said: “I am really delighted that we have been chosen as an Internet of Things Test Bed site to pioneer the next generation of connected self-management tools for people to better manage long-term conditions. This is a great example of how the NHS and the Department for Health with Innovate UK are leading the way in co-developing the future with patients and leading technology providers for the benefit of all.

Sandra Tweddell from Bristol has lived with Type 1 diabetes since 1961. She is coordinator of the Bristol Diabetes Support Network and has been involved in the design of the Diabetes Digital Coach programme.

Sandra says: “I am so excited by the news about Diabetes Digital Coach being announced as an NHS Test Bed. In the absence of a cure for diabetes, technology offers a way of giving immediate information about your diabetes control so you can manage it better and prevent or delay the complications that can go with the condition.

Technology can be used to enable true partnership between the GP, consultant or practice nurse and the person with diabetes. Diabetes Digital Coach is a really exciting initiative as, if successful, it will enable more people to better manage their diabetes, hopefully reducing the awful complications that go with the condition.”

Cutting through the hype

NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens said: “Over the next decade major health gains won’t just come from a few ‘miracle cures’, but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications, and AI computing.

Our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service.”

The Diabetes Digital Coach programme in the West of England will work with a number of SME partners, who have responded warmly to today’s Test Bed announcement:

The Diabetes Digital Coach partnership

There are a number of partners involved in the Diabetes Digital Coach Internet of Things Test Bed, with the West of England ASHN as lead organisation.

The partnership also includes two charities, 10 companies, seven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), two acute providers, and three community providers.

Corsham Institute
Diabetes UK
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)
Ki Performance
LeLan / SocialDiabetes
Mapmyhealth
Oviva
Rescon
R-Outcomes
Soupdragon Resources
HEOR
All seven Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the West of England (Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Swindon, Wiltshire)
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust
North Bristol NHS Trust
SEQOL
Sirona Care and Health
Bristol Community Health
NHS England Test Beds

A joint programme between NHS England, the Office for Life Science, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, NHS Test Beds bring together local health and social care bodies including CCGs, hospital trusts, primary and community care providers with a wide range of innovators from home and abroad.

Each Test Bed will use a different combination of innovations, from both large and small organisations, to address a locally-identified clinical challenge.  The changes made will be rigorously evaluated, with the aim to provide evidence, which will give more areas the confidence to adopt the innovations over the coming years.

Test beds are a key strand of the NHS Five Year Forward View, and will help realise the ambition of reforming the NHS so that it is fit to face the challenges of the 21st Century – particularly an ageing population and an increase in patients with long-term health conditions – while remaining financially sustainable.

The NHS has a track record of being open to new ideas and technology – they’re being implemented all the time. Where progress has been slower is in combining innovations, in a whole-system way, so that their impact is bigger than the sum of their parts – the ‘test beds’ programme will change that.