Patients with long-term heart failure benefit as Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent chosen for funding

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Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent has received £1.2m of new NHS funding to utilise innovative digital technologies and treatments that could lead to thousands of fewer hospital admissions nationally.

The area is one of seven locations nationwide to become part of the NHS Test Beds programme. Clinicians at Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent will look specifically at how they can improve care for patients with chronic long-term heart failure.

The team at Royal Stoke will combine three new digital technologies to help reduce A&E admissions for patients with chronic long-term heart failure. They will do this by coordinating community-based clinical interventions with patients who report deteriorating symptoms.

The project will also enhance patient knowledge and the ability to safely ‘self-care’, using bespoke patient-education materials and referrals to appropriate third-sector services. When it is rolled out nationally it is estimated the project could lead to 24,000 fewer hospital admissions, 240,000 less bed days and save £60m.

Simon Whitehouse, Director of Together We’re Better, the health and care partnership for Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, said: “This is fantastic news for local people and credit to our local clinicians for driving this forward. One of the ambitions of Together We’re Better is to become a national exemplar in the use of digital technology and this very welcome announcement by the Secretary of State absolutely supports that goal.

“By being selected as one of just a handful of NHS Test Bed sites in the country, people in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent with chronic long-term heart failure will receive more effective support through the use of this pioneering new technology.”

Paula Clark, Chief Executive at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM), said: “I’m delighted by the award of £1.2m to our health economy to try to improve care for patients with heart failure.

“We’ll be working with our partners across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire to support patients through faster access to treatment before they become unwell and need acute hospital care. We have a strong reputation for caring for these patients and I hope our expertise will eventually mean patients nationwide will benefit from the work here in Stoke-on-Trent.”

Neil Carr, Chief Executive of Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT), said: “I am extremely pleased that our local health care system has been awarded the NHS Test Beds programme funding. Together we now have an exciting opportunity to lead an innovative piece of work that will enhance patient care.

“The funding will be used to enrich the offer to heart failure patients across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent through a combination of digital technology and clinical input from MPFT’s heart failure nurses and clinical colleagues from partner organisations. Ultimately patients will receive better access to care before they become acutely unwell, reducing the need to go to hospital and improving care in the community.”

Dr Ruth Chambers OBE, Clinical Chair for Stoke-on-Trent CCG, said: “In Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire we have led the way in the use of this kind of telehealth technology, including the pioneering Flo system developed locally. This technology is good for patients and good for the NHS.

“Patients feel both supported and empowered when they are able to report back on their symptoms and see that there is something that can be done about it. Patients don’t want to be rushed into hospital if it can be avoided.”

Neil Mortimer, Lead for Digital Health West Midlands, said: “Digital Health West Midlands, the digital innovation service provided by West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) supports the NHS and industry to forge productive collaborations that benefit patients and clinicians and help the region’s technology companies to deliver innovative solutions to the NHS. By providing specialist expertise and knowledge, Digital Health WM supported the partners to develop a comprehensive bid to Innovate UK and NHS England. As part of the national AHSN Network, Digital Health West Midlands will also ensure that lessons learned from the Test Bed will be shared regionally and nationally.”

The NHS Test Beds programme is part of a wider suite of NHS projects that will see the NHS use new partnerships as well as enabling uptake of technologies that will benefit 500,000 patients nationally. Other Test Bed sites are embarking on projects that include the use of AI and machine learning to improve breast cancer screening and digital platforms enabling self-management for diabetes.