Overview of the programme

The Digital Pioneers programme is one of a number of co-produced innovation programmes being driven by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network (Eastern AHSN), one of 15 AHSNs in England.

An initial eight projects running across the East of England will reach over 500,000 patients, providing new, more efficient ways to treat, monitor and keep clinicians connected to patients. The projects aim to improve support for patients in key areas such as cardiac rehabilitation, e-prescribing, and assessment of stroke patients.

These projects form part of the region’s Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships’ Plans (STPs), which set out how local health and care systems will meet the challenges of the future. Eastern AHSN are supporting delivery of the STP as trusted leaders to change care through use of innovations and improved knowledge.

Leaders of each project, known as ‘Digital Pioneers’ spent time at Microsoft’s UK training HQ in London, learning from international experts about the opportunities available to use existing technology better, as well as understand the potential for new technology in training. The exchange was facilitated by The Whitehall & Industry Group (WIG), a charity bringing together organisations from across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors with the purpose of learning from one another and finding solutions together.

The eight projects

1. Cardiac Rehab+ (Cambridgeshire)

Huntingdonshire District Council will develop and run an eight-week educational programme for 130 patients who have experienced cardiac failure. Participants will learn how to use ‘Activ8rlives’ (A8) self-care technology to measure and record symptom scores, medication diaries and vital signs. This will work alongside the existing ‘Active Lifestyles’ exercise programme to support their recovery. A follow on support group will also be set up to ensure that patients have an ongoing network to rely on for help, advice and moral support.

Digital Pioneer – Daniel Gammons, Sports Development Officer (Health Inequalities), Huntingdonshire District Council.


2. e-Prescribing (Essex)

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals are launching an electronic prescribing and medicines administration system (EPMA). It will replace the current paper prescription and administration record chart found at the foot of patients’ beds. This will reduce prescription errors, provide mobile access to records, increase accountability and support continuity if patients are transferred between healthcare trusts. Doctors and pharmacists will be trained to use newly provided handheld devices to input data and access the system.

Digital Pioneer – Emily Harris, Prescribing Nurse lead, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals


3. Digital Community Clinicians (Norfolk)

The project at Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust will improve mobile working capabilities to help increase efficiency and enable real-time electronic record keeping. This will release valuable time, allowing doctors and nurses to see more patients.

One aspect that the team is addressing is the issue of limited connectivity across the region. To tackle this, they are using the TPP Mobile App for SystmOne – a patient record and prescription system. The next rollout, as part of this project, will be for 350 clinical staff in the Community Nursing and Therapy (CN&T) services. This project will improve care for over 24,000 patients.

Digital Pioneer – Emma Jackson, Clinical lead for mobile working, Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust


4. Digital Clinical Community (Norfolk)

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will establish a community of clinicians to assess the best way of introducing an Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system in three acute trusts providing patients with secondary care. The team will host local events to learn from globally leading acute trusts in the UK who are already employing EPR systems. This is a crucial next step which will set the strategy for their adoption of a digital system. These trusts collectively care for 250,000 patients.

Digital Pioneer – Tim Ford, Senior Project manager, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


5. Digital Inclusion for Children and Young People (Suffolk)

Suffolk’s alliance of health and care partners are launching are launching a digital inclusion programme, which is co-produced with children and young people. The team will tap into the knowledge of the tech savvy generation who will be the service users of the future.

Key objectives are to find out how to make it easy for them to get good medical support on line, and to encourage them to take more ownership and responsibility for their care needs.

The team will start by learning from various international, national and local exemplars in this field, to develop an approach which will align with the needs of the 280,000 children and young people in Suffolk and North-East Essex.

Digital Pioneer – Kate Walker, Head of Digital Strategy and Transformation, Suffolk and North East Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership


6. Paramedic Assessment of Stroke Patients (Suffolk)

East of England Ambulance service and Ipswich Hospital are running a project to support paramedics in their assessment of stroke patients. Paramedics will be able to connect to specialist stroke consultants in the field using the IOCOM telemedicine system on portable tablets, the specialists can then see and hear the patient. This will help identify patients’ eligibility for thrombolysis (latest treatment to remove blood clots) prior to reaching the hospital. Time is of the essence as thrombolysis treatment must commence within 4.5 hours of symptom onset following other in-hospital tests, and is only available in certain hospitals.

Early accurate assessment and diagnosis is key in correctly identifying and managing potential stroke patients, as the rate of stroke mimics is 40-50%. Stroke mimics are conditions such as seizure, brain tumours, Bell’s palsy and Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIAs) amongst others, all of which require further treatment.

Digital Pioneer – Lynda Sibson, Telemedicine Manager, East of England Stroke Telemedicine Stakeholder Partnership


7. Primary Care Digital Champion (Suffolk and north east Essex)

Anglian Community Enterprise will recruit a digital champion to take forward digital solutions that will create system efficiencies, improve care, and improve patient access for their 23,000 patients. They will look at care navigation, self-care apps and on-line consultations as part of the overall transformation plan.

Digital Pioneer – Chris Adams-Salmon, Digital Champion, Anglian Community Enterprise


8. Digital Transformation (Hertfordshire and West Essex)

Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) is seeking to transform how technology is used to deliver services.  Accessibility and availability, customer interaction & engagement, inter-agency collaboration, workforce productivity, intelligent systems & processes are all being targeted as part of this project.

They have engaged external partner, Firebox Digital, to independently review their existing systems and make recommendations for change.

Digital Pioneer – Eddie Short, Continuous Improvement Lead, HPFT

© Eastern AHSN