Monthly news from Eastern AHSN - March 2020
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Dear all,
Now that the UK has entered a period of unprecedented social measures and governmental action in response to the Covid-19, pandemic, we will all be aware of the extraordinary efforts which health and care professionals are putting in around the clock in order to be ready for the expected numbers of critical ill patients.  This ranges from work being done in hospitals to extend ICU/ITU capacity through to lots of the enabling work already happening in primary care to enable non-Covid-19 patients to be continue to be seen whilst making better use of remote technology. In just the last three weeks since the pandemic was officially declared, we have seen some significant transformation work being carried out at an extraordinary pace, including:
  • Rapid response innovation calls for proposals to support vulnerable people (eg NIHR Covid 19 response, UKRI £20 million fund for novel research, TechForce19);
  • Mobilisation of businesses, large and small, to provide urgent support, resources and equipment;
  • Huge increase in uptake of digital technology in primary care in particular – e.g. the NHSX rollout of video consultations and massive increases in the downloading of relevant apps;
  • Accelerated partnerships between industry and the public sector to help the NHS with capacity and workforce, e.g. the offers of free or at-cost kit and resource.
At Eastern AHSN in recent days we have been taking om which of our ongoing programmes has the potential to support the current situation by helping to reduce the need for patients to visit hospital, whilst mobilising other parts of our team to support our region’s ongoing efforts in digital transformation. Our approach in this respect has been guided by the national response of the AHSN Network, working with our commissioners.  Read here for further details
At the same time, we are taking steps to protect our staff and stakeholders.  In common with most other organisations, we are now all working remotely and have had to cancel or postpone our forthcoming events. 

Nonetheless work on supporting our innovators continues, In this newsletter we have taken a moment to reflect on what we have achieved so far in 2020, including the success of our first regional leaders’ innovation forum, which took place in January. 

We look forward to continuing to work with you throughout the coming weeks and months to play our part in helping to stem the tide of the pandemic.
Thank you for continued support and I hope you all stay well.
Stay well,
Piers Ricketts

Eastern AHSN response to the Covid-19 pandemic
Now that our partners across the NHS and social care are mobilising at scale in response to the developing COVID-19 pandemic, the role of England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) is to support them by helping them take full advantage of the most relevant innovations and technologies that can improve care for patients and support our services in this challenging context.

Nationally, the AHSN Network is part of a coordinated NHS response to identify and enable the implementation of technologies that respond to areas of highest priority action, in particular solutions for remote consultation and patient monitoring, diagnostics and point-of-care testing.

Similarly, in the regions each AHSN is part of a system-wide approach, led by our regional NHS offices, to support our local health and care organisations – connecting them with potential solutions and offering up the specific operational or clinical skillsets of our teams where relevant. This includes our Patient Safety Collaboratives, who will be adapting their specialist skills towards keeping patients safe in these very demanding environments.

Until the outbreak subsides, Eastern AHSN and  our affiliate AHSNs will pause or slow some non-priority programmes that depend upon collaboration with the NHS to allow health services to concentrate their capacity in the short term.

If you are a company or an innovator with a potential COVID-19 related solution, please see a list of contacts here.

NHSx launches fund for innovations to combat the effects of social isolation. 

We are supporting a national call out for innovators who can support the elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating during COVID-19 to apply for government funding of up to £25,000 to test their solution. The challenge - named TechForce19 - involves £500,000 of funding to alleviate the impact of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

The  aim is to quickly bring to market technology that can help people likely to be impacted most by self-isolation, including those with mental health issues or requiring social care support. Read more about how to apply at

Kicking off 2020 with our clarity of purpose and vision for the future of healthcare 

To launch our 2020-2023 business strategy to deliver on our purpose to turn great ideas into positive health impact, we held our first regional leaders’ innovation forum in January.

Focusing on the future of big data in the NHS, and addressed by the Eastern AHSN Executive and guest speakers from Microsoft, The Cambridge University Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, and Chrohn’s and Colitis UK, the lively event attracted more than eighty innovators and leaders in healthcare, industry and academia from across the region.
The event focused on data and analytics, investigating both the power and the pitfalls of recent advances in using data in healthcare. The audience was also invited to consider how advances in analytical tools and deep learning technology will transform the experience of patients and the workforce in years to come.

Find out more about the event here or view our 2 minute highlights reel here.

Improving cardiovascular health and treatment - New Innovation Exchange podcast with Prof. Gary Ford OBE
Leading authority on stroke medicine and the CEO of Oxford AHSN, Professor Gary Ford CBE joins the latest episode in podcast in the AHSN Innovation Exchange podcast series to describe the big challenges facing the NHS in the field of cardiovascular health and what is being done to innovate. 

Did you know that blood pressure can now be measured using a smartphone camera?
Hear about this groundbreaking technology from the innovator Xim Ltd in the podcast, as well as a pocket-sized ECG from AlivCor that has gone global. You'll also learn about the new software from Oxford Heartbeat that can predict the success or failure of stents during heart surgery.

Listen to the podcast at
Eastern AHSN-convened team for rare disease research, Gut Reaction completes HDR UK Sprint Exemplar Project
A team convened by Eastern AHSN and led by Cambridge University Hospitals and the NIHR BioResource has completed a high-profile Health Data Research UK (HDRUK) Sprint Exemplar Innovation Project focused on rare diseases and genomics.
Rare diseases affect one in 17 people in the UK – about 3.5 million individuals – and can be extremely difficult to diagnose and treat because they often have an (as yet) unidentified genetic cause.
The rare diseases sprint, named Gut Reaction, was one of eleven proof of concept projects selected by HDRUK to help inform the development and design of its UK-wide Health Data Research Hub programme.

Collecting the award on behalf of the team, Mark Avery, Director of Health Informatics, Eastern AHSN said, “We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved through our NHS, academia and industry collaboration over the last 10 months. Recent advances in clinical imaging, pathology, and genomic technologies have led to significant progress in understanding of diseases,” said Mark, “but the power of these technologies cannot be fully realised until the immense volume of data generated can be integrated, and then analysed by researchers in a secure data research environment that protects the privacy of individuals.”

Learn more here.
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