2021-22 has been another year of transition for the health and care bodies and higher education institutions that form Health Innovation Wessex. Covid has affected parts of our innovation and research ecosystem in different ways, as it walks a tightrope between continuing to run day-to-day services at one end while trying to transform them at the other as the system recovers.

In this review, we outline our key impacts, and link to resources, videos, and podcasts – all developed with our partners - which support our colleagues to keep patients in Wessex safe and well. We have also contributed significantly to the national impacts of the AHSN Network, the network of 15 AHSNs covering England.

In 2021-22:


patients benefited from our national programmes and initiatives


innovations in our national pipeline of Innovation


investment leveraged by companies supported by AHSNs

Going digital

Digital innovation is integral to most activities in health and social care, and all Health Innovation Wessex programmes include digital aspects within their workstreams. We work with NHS England and NHS Improvement and the NHS Transformation Directorate to support the regional uptake of digital technologies.

This year we have continued to support our local health systems with delivery of the digital-first offer in the NHS Long Term Plan and have helped innovators to navigate the digital ecosystem. New technologies and models of digital care are emerging from a post-Covid landscape ripe for adoption.

We have focused on innovation and digital enabled care in care and community settings, providing evaluation and implementation support for NHS primary care organisations to improve patient health and experience, including teledermatology and digital self-management solutions. Our teams have helped the local Integrated Care Systems with strategic development, and contributed to the development and evaluation of an innovative new GP surgery providing exemplary facilities needed for the future of care.

“The NHS is a hotbed of innovation and technological revolution in clinical practice. Technology will play a central role in realising the Long Term Plan, helping clinicians use the full range of their skills, reducing bureaucracy, stimulating research and enabling service transformation. People will have more control over the care they receive and more support to manage their health, to keep themselves well and better manage their conditions, while assisting carers in their vital work.”

NHS Long Term Plan (2019)

Going digital

Supporting the development of innovative primary care facilities for St Clements Surgery, Winchester (image: Assura plc)

Going digital

We evaluated the Dermicus teledermatology pilot in primary care practices on the Isle of Wight

Healthy ageing

In Wessex in 2018, 592,000 people were over 65 years of age, and by 2030 the Office for National Statistics predicts this number to rise to 751,000.

We have continued to focus on opportunities to slow the onset and reduce the severity of frailty, through innovation and the spread of best practice.

Awareness of our healthy ageing programme has continued to build, and we’ve engaged with 20 organisations to support related innovations transforming care of older people.

Our frailty e-learning module has launched across all four UK nations, with our frailty fundamentals resources adopted for national spread by the NHS England Same Day Emergency Care team.

Healthy ageing

We developed an Urgent Community Frailty Response toolkit to standardise the operational approach


people over 65 in Wessex in 2018


people over 65 in Wessex in 2030 (predicted)

We celebrated the theme of digital equity for older people as part of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons in October 2021, focusing on emerging research and innovation from Wessex, collating best practice resources from our national partners, highlighting our work to support digital inclusion for older people, and sharing the story of 85 year-old Maureen and her digital journey.

“With our ageing population it is increasingly important we improve awareness of frailty. The e-learning programme […] supports a wider understanding of frailty across health and care. It underpins much of the transformational work within the Ageing Well and NHS@Home programmes. The training is comprehensive and linked to the Frailty Core capabilities framework and is accessible to staff across both health and care, as well as the general public.”

Dr Adrian Hayter, National Clinical Director for Older People and Integrated Person Centred Care, NHS England


The region’s life sciences industry employs 9,000 and has a turnover of £2.5 billion.

We continue to deliver the Innovation Exchange, as commissioned by the Office for Life Sciences, using four elements to identify, select and encourage the adoption of innovations with the potential for health transformation, and to strengthen economic growth in the Wessex region.

During 2021-22 we’ve connected health and care staff facing specific challenges with innovators offering potential solutions. In doing so, we’ve provided support to over 250 companies, including clinicians, academics and commercial innovators. Of this number, over 100 innovators have each received more than 5 hours of support.

This has contributed to the creation or safeguarding of 79.5 jobs, and economic growth of almost £13.8m in sales, grants and investment. We also helped Wessex NHS and universities win over £1.2m in external funding.


“Health Innovation Wessex has been extremely proactive in helping us move forward, they spent time understanding our needs and through their extensive clinical network provided us with invaluable feedback that we will use in the development and eventual commercialisation of our innovative wound treatment device.”

Managing director, medical device manufacturer


people employed

£2.5 billion



Innovators and mentors celebrate success at the Health Innovation Programme 2022


jobs safeguarded

£13.8 million

economic growth in sales

£1.2 million

of external funding

Innovation spread

Innovation is vital to the future of our local integrated health and care services, to alleviate increasing operational pressures, and to improve population health, equitable patient care, and provide best value to the taxpayer.

Our Nationally Prioritised Innovations programme has continued to roll out high impact innovations to achieve improvements in care and outcomes, via the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme, and NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Accelerated Access Collaborative workstreams (the Rapid Uptake Products (RUP) programme, and the MedTech Funding Mandate).

During 2021-22, we delivered the three RUPs in the first year of the programme; Lipid Management, Measuring Fractional exhaled Nitric Oxide (FeNO) concentration to diagnose asthma, and Asthma Biologic therapies, and encouraged partners in Wessex to bid for AAC Pathway Transformation Funding.

As a result, more than 100,000 patients nationwide have benefited from FeNO testing and consequent improvements to the diagnosis and management of their severe and/or complex asthma. So far in Wessex, we’ve helped 8,033 people benefit and supported the adoption of 72 FeNO testing devices.

“I was in and out of hospital all the time, every couple of weeks and it was very frustrating because I know I’ve been told I have asthma, so to present at A&E and be told that it might not be asthma, that it might be something else; well, what else could it be? It was only after a visit to the severe asthma centre, the first thing they did was a FeNO test. I’m not a typical asthmatic so sometimes I’ll wheeze and sometimes I won’t. I don’t present as a typical asthmatic but after blowing into the FeNO machine I was diagnosed immediately with severe asthma and my path changed.”

Louise Reece Jones, patient participant volunteer


patients benefited in Wessex


patients benefited nationwide


FeNO testing devices adopted

Innovation Spread

Dr Thomas Brown, Health Innovation Wessex Clinical Lead for FeNO, presents the national FeNO training programme

Asthma UK: FeNO tests for Asthma


Our Insight and Evaluation experts support innovators and organisations to generate and use insights about the real world impacts of innovations for patients, staff and the system.

Over the last 12 months we’ve provided evaluation, real world validation and rapid insight approaches, to improve system capability and capacity for adoption and spread.

As part of the post-Covid system recovery we have expanded our Insight capacity and capability in response to increasing demand for our insights about successful innovation adoption.

During 2021-22, we supported 41 evaluation projects and reported 10 independent evaluations – available to browse in the Innovation Insight library.

We led the local evaluation of the Dorset Innovation Hub, attracting funding of £470,000 over 2.5 years.

Over 300 staff across the Wessex health and care system participated in rapid insight events in response to local need for insights into digital innovation and remote care.

We supported 8 primary care practices across HIOW ICS with the adoption and evaluation of 3 digital self-management innovations.

Our collaborative review to understand how AHSNs undertake spread and adoption has been published nationally by the AHSN Network to help AHSNs, and partners, understand and harness the AHSN collective experience and expertise.

“Since our formation in 2013, the AHSNs have amassed significant expertise in the approaches and challenges to adoption and spread of innovation. The review highlights a number of factors to consider and different types of approaches, which will be of use to those in local and national systems trying to spread innovation. [It] expands our knowledge base and will increase our capability to spread innovation in the NHS.”

Professor Gary Ford, Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Oxford AHSN, speaking about Health Innovation Wessex’s review of spread and adoption approaches across the AHSN Network


evaluation projects supported


independent evaluations reported


of funding over 2.5 years


Learning systems

Health and care systems and higher education institutions adapted to the challenges presented by Covid through strong system working and highly adaptive approaches across organisations, provider collaboratives, integrated care systems, and research structures. This year, we have significantly supported learning health and care systems and learning research and innovation ecosystems to improve discovery, sustain development and accelerate deployment through improvements to culture, processes and capabilities.

“I was particularly interested to hear about the Wessex Health Partners collaboration and how that infrastructure across academia, the AHSN and the NHS is really strengthening, and I really want to see the results of that in terms of what that means for patient services and for patient outcomes moving forward.”

Lindsey Hughes, Director of Research and Engagement, Innovation, Research and Life Sciences, NHS England and NHS Improvement, speaking at a senior NHS team visit to Health Innovation Wessex in May 2022


Our medicines optimisation programme has supported patients to get the most from their medicines; reducing problematic polypharmacy, reducing harm from long-term use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain, and improving the processes around repeat prescribing.

This year, around 1.6 million extra electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) prescription items were issued in Wessex, saving more than 6,800 GP hours.

We worked with the NHS Business Services Authority to create data dashboards to help GPs identify patients on regular medications who would benefit from electronic repeat dispensing.

Avoidable medication errors cost 1,700 lives and more than £98 million to the NHS in England every year. These mistakes could be caused during the prescribing, dispensing, administration of monitoring part of the process, and are recognised as a global issue. Across Wessex, 5,563 patients aged 85 or over were prescribed 10 or more medicines; for this age group, each additional medicine taken increases the risk of death by 3%. We’ve continued to prevent harm from inappropriate polypharmacy (multiple medications), developing a comparator tool enabling local systems and primary care to identify patients at risk and support better conversations with patients about medication issues.

“I just wanted to acknowledge all the hard work and effort that has gone into the development of the opioid prescribing comparators which were recently launched by NHSBSA. [They are] very impressive and provide some excellent insight. I am sure that when this insight is put into the right hands it will make a huge difference to improving patient safety and patient outcomes as well as potentially helping to save lives. This has been another excellent example of partnership working between Health Innovation Wessex and the NHSBSA to deliver a brilliant piece of work which will benefit the wider system and one which deserves to be celebrated.”

Michael Brodie CBE, Chief Executive, NHS Business Services Authority


extra electronic repeat prescriptions issued


GP hours saved

Electronic repeat dispensing (eRD) - the patient perspective

Mental health

Mental health problems currently cost the UK at least £117.9 billion each year.

We have continued to deliver and support the national programmes for eating disorders and neurodevelopmental services, identifying variation in mental health outcomes and helping our health and care systems to harness innovation to address challenges.

This year, 3 out of 4 mental health trusts have implemented the QbTest tool for ADHD with 575 children receiving the test in 2021.

100% of adult eating disorder services in Wessex have adopted the FREED model (First episode Rapid Early intervention in Eating Disorders) to promote early assessment.

We’ve also brought together our health and higher education partners to address improvements to the mental health and wellbeing of students, hosting an event attended by over 100 people, -and have worked with innovators to identify where innovation could impact mental health pathways.

Our mental health innovation support programme has offered over 1,500 hours of tailored support to develop innovation in mental health, and more than 125 hours of evaluation expertise.

“Since we’ve had QbTest, I can often draw a diagnostic conclusion on the first appointment. You can actually do the job that you’re here to do and that gives you job satisfaction.”

Michael Brodie CBE, Chief Executive, NHS Business Services Authority

1,500 hours

tailored support to develop innovation in mental health

Mental Health

Focus ADHD – AHSN national success (October 2021)

Patient safety

We’ve worked with our system partners across the region to achieve the objectives of our national patient safety commission in the five priority Safety Improvement Programmes (SIPs) set out in the NHS Patient Safety Strategy.

We developed and matured Patient Safety Networks as the main route for delivering these SIPs.

We supported the development of a national dashboard to aid the safe reduction of non-cancer opioids, and helped four Wessex sites to test the national Paediatric Early Warning Scores (PEWS): read how we supported PEWS with Wessex paediatric teams and with South East PSCs.

This year, we won an HSJ Award as part of the national network for our role in the implementation of Covid Oximetry @home and virtual wards and were shortlisted in 2 categories for the 2021 HSJ Patient Safety Awards with our RESTORE2mini Learning Disability project.

Our RESTORE2 and pulse oximetry videos were viewed over 1 million times.

We held 18 virtual patient safety events across southern England and Wessex networks, with over 1000 attendees in total.

Why use RESTORE2 (the physical deterioration and escalation tool for care/nursing homes)

“All care home staff should be trained in how to identify and respond to residents who deteriorate medically. The RESTORE-2 tool has been used successfully by many care home staff during the pandemic and is useful even when staff are not trained to measure or record vital signs.”

Covid-19: Managing the Covid-19 pandemic in care homes British Geriatrics Society (bgs.org.uk)

“Health Innovation Wessex’s rollout [of Covid Oximetry @home] was exemplary – they really led the charge and managed relationships between the NHS and industry during the rollout.”

Bryn Sage, chief executive, Inhealthcare (collaborated with Health Innovation Wessex to implement remote monitoring platform for Covid Oximetry @home) in an interview with Digital Health

Opioid podcast with pain specialist Dr Cathy Price

Primary care

Our digital primary care activities are interwoven with the regional and national strategic priorities, and we have continued to work to understand the challenges faced by Integrated Care Systems and primary care teams, and their aspirations for improvement and increased digital literacy.

In 2021-22 we’ve conducted trials of innovations that offer improved outcomes and efficiency for clinical services, providing real world testing in primary care demonstrator sites, horizon scanning and evaluation expertise.

The evaluation of a teledermatology platform piloted across all primary care settings on the Isle of Wight found that 88% of referrals safely avoided the need for a face-to-face outpatients appointment.

We highlighted new ways of working for primary care staff at St Clements Surgery in Winchester, scoping new future-proofed premises accommodating the latest advancements in clinical care and digital innovation.

“What’s important here is that we understand that when we implement technologies, so whether that’s a use of a new Ardens template or trying to implement a closed Facebook group on social media, we understand people’s acceptance and ability to use the tool.”

Dr Matt Hammerton, Partner, St Clements Surgery, Winchester

Primary care
Primary care

Supporting the development of innovative primary care facilities for St Clements Surgery, Winchester (image: Assura plc)

Strategic activities

All our programmes are underpinned by cross-cutting activity to support digital capability, understand and address health inequalities, meet NHS Net Zero and environmental sustainability targets, and to implement the AHSN Network’s commitments to equality, diversity and inclusion.

We have made rapid progress in these areas over the last twelve months.

“We’ve seen some fantastic examples of the new range of innovations that can have an impact for patients. We’ve also seen innovations that can make a really big difference on areas that are important for reducing healthcare inequalities. Keep working together across the system on these key challenges.”

Matt Whitty, Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences and Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative, NHS England and NHS Improvement, speaking at a senior NHS team visit to Health Innovation Wessex

Strategic activities

Our members

We are a member-led organisation, with collaboration at the heart of all we do. Engagement with the NHS system, local authorities, enterprise partnerships, universities, industry and the third sector, both in co-production and direct investment, is central to our work.