Why is co-production key to future of NHS?

By Daniel Gammons, ‘Digital Pioneer’ and Sports Development Officer (Health Inequalities), Huntingdonshire District Council

Daniel Gammons, ‘Digital Pioneer’ and Sports Development Officer (Health Inequalities), Huntingdonshire District Council

The reputation of the public sector for getting to grips with the latest technology is not what you would call resoundingly positive at the moment. With the malware attacks in the NHS and ongoing IT system issues, it is proving to be a tough journey. But there is hope!

This week is national co-production week. Not the most inspiring name perhaps, but actually rather important. Two questions spring to mind – what is co-production? And why should I care?

I will tell you why.

Back in 2015 eminent medical man Prof Sir Bruce Keogh talked of a ‘revolution’ in self-care with a ‘huge rollout’ of health assessment devices in the NHS to help patients monitor themselves at home. Trials had shown that apps that help patients monitor their own health and transmit results to health professionals significantly reduced the number of hospital admissions (by as much as 75% in one such trial in Sussex.)

Introducing the use of apps, tablets and wearable technology to the health and care sector is indeed a game changer, but in order to make it happen, multiple groups need to collaborate, co-operate and be open to a new dimension. Not an easy ask.

So how is it going? Are we on the edge of a world where no matter where we are, our doctor knows exactly what condition our cardio-vascular system is in?

Or was it a wildly ambitious dream?

Well, we are getting there. This week sees the launch of another excellent programme which is driving forward use of innovation and technology in our health and care services. The Digital Pioneers programme which is being run in the eastern region of the UK is supporting a series of technology-related projects to help implement such things as self-monitoring, e-prescribing and on-line consultations.

In my area – Huntingdonshire, we recognise the impact that technology could have on rehabilitation support. According to the British Heart Foundation, Cardiovascular disease still kills around one in four people in the UK. Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is a programme of exercise and information sessions to help you get back on your feet again after a heart attack, heart surgery or procedure and is an effective way of minimising future risks. Research shows cardiac rehabilitation reduces the risk of death from heart disease by 26 to 36% and reduces readmissions by 28 to 56%. However, uptake in the UK is low. Our CR+ project aims to improve the cardiac rehabilitation offer and increase engagement levels.

The CR+ concept combines three elements of support. Firstly, a new educational syllabus for self-care integrated with the existing exercise programme. Secondly, the use of Activ8rlives (A8) self-care technology developed with support from innovation broker, SBRI Healthcare. The third element is to create a self-supporting follow-on support social group.

The monitoring equipment will be provided to people on-loan for up to six months. They will receive an eight-week training programme and at the end users will be able to purchase their equipment at a discount or return it for reuse.

We are working with patients and volunteers to co-produce and deliver our cardiac rehabilitation project. Without their expertise and support from the start, our project would be at a high risk of failure. Mirror this throughout the health and care sector and you will see how we can bring about the changes necessary for a sustainable transformation. It’s all about co-production; patients, carers, health and care professionals, technology and innovation experts working together to jointly deliver projects and find the best route to success.

Connecting all of these people and motivating them to work together is the hardest challenge for us. Naturally everyone has competing priorities. Fortunately, the NHS is currently funding the Academic Health Science Networks which work as a link between all critical organisations in our area. They also support us with training, guidance and access to project funding. Having that central driving force has been and will continue to be an essential component of implementing change.

I believe that by using co-production methods like this, our public health and care services can move towards the future that we all hope for. That is why it matters.

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