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Healthcare innovation initiatives continue to thrive in the north east at all levels Header Template

Healthcare innovation initiatives continue to thrive in the north east at all levels

6 minutes
Posted: 18-June-2024

Head of Innovation at InnoScot Health, Robert Rea analyses efforts to inspire region’s next generation of health innovators

Education is an increasingly vital part of driving forward healthcare innovation – and, as with most initiatives designed to encourage the next generation, it’s often a case of the earlier, the better.

Traditionally, innovation learning has been considered best aligned to higher education institutions in order to train a future-ready NHS Scotland workforce in the latest cutting-edge thinking.

A leading example of this is the University of Aberdeen Centre for Healthcare Education Research and Innovation (CHERI) which informs new approaches to teaching and learning, assessment and curriculum design throughout healthcare education.

That focus is undoubtedly a positive way to empower the change agents of tomorrow and encourage them to take a lead in their respective area so that they can hit the ground running as they enter the health service.

However, as the NHS continues to go through a challenging period of transformation and renewal with a focus on achieving more with less, we have arguably never had greater need to place a strong emphasis on embedding an innovation mindset in more proactive ways.

For instance, could the education process start earlier in order to inspire young minds to think more innovatively?

That’s why I was so impressed to note recently that NHS Grampian had teamed up with one of Aberdeen’s secondary schools to allow young people to gain an insight into what a healthcare career entails – and fundamentally fire their imaginations.

By partnering with St Machar Academy, NHS Grampian has helped support widened access to career-based learning while starting to lay the foundations of the collaborative workforce of tomorrow with in-school visits and work experience opportunities.

NHS Grampian is keen to contribute to attracting and retaining talent in the region, in turn supporting economic sustainability, and so its Practice Education team took practical steps towards making that happen by developing ‘St Machar Healthcare+’.

Essentially, this has meant the creation of a dedicated classroom where young people can learn about the many healthcare career options available to them while gaining hands-on and theoretical experience in a simulated environment complete with real world medical equipment.

It is based on the US ‘Career Academies’ model of embedding a “school within a school”, integrating both academic and career-oriented coursework and experiential education to improve readiness for higher learning and awareness of opportunities in specialised fields such as healthcare.

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We at InnoScot Health know first-hand the ideas which an inspired healthcare workforce can bring to the table. It was really important for us to inspire and encourage staff to be part of shaping future care for this diverse region with its unique healthcare requirements.

Robert Rea, Head of Innovation, InnoScot Health

Jane Ewen, Nurse Director, Excellence & Innovation at NHS Grampian said that they wanted to replicate a similar approach to Nashville which had resulted in an “increased number of students graduating and widening opportunities for all students from all social backgrounds into healthcare”.

Supported by the NHS Scotland Academy alongside others, the St Machar initiative has recognised the importance of partnerships – a key driver for all healthcare innovation going forward.

It is now hoped that it can be a fertile model for inspiring clinical leaders of the future armed with a strong innovation mindset – a huge career asset given that aiming to trailblaze in NHS innovation is no longer a side project; instead, it must be considered central to job roles.

Formal NHS Scotland partner InnoScot Health believes that the key to positive healthcare progression is through targeted grassroots education, and the St Machar Academy project is a tremendous example of that.

Quality and relevant education is the means by which that progressive shift can take place. It is the catalyst for redefining ambitions in schools, universities, colleges, and from the very first day of NHS careers where ever-evolving innovation learning has to be encouraged and facilitated.

We at InnoScot Health know first-hand the ideas which an inspired healthcare workforce can bring to the table.

We partnered with NHS Grampian last year on an innovation competition which sought to draw out the best new ideas from the local workforce, whether simple or complex, for improving patient care across the region’s half a million population with prizes on offer for the standout entrants.

The competition was aimed at stimulating innovative thinking to help improve patient care while laying a platform for fresh economic opportunities.

The three winning entries were a seating solution to assist acute and community therapists working with patients, a fresh approach to helping staff undertake flexible endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES), and an artificial intelligence (AI)-based radiology referral management idea, enhancing speed and effectiveness of care for each individual.

It was really important for us to inspire and encourage staff to be part of shaping future care for this diverse region with its unique healthcare requirements.

We firmly believe that absolutely anyone in the NHS workforce can use their own unique insights to become an innovator, and the competition served to amply prove that ethos.

There is so much potential in the north east to inspire improved patient outcomes – but education, support, and encouragement are where it begins.

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