Learning systems

What was delivered in 2022-23? 

Dorset Innovation Hub 

We continued to support the Dorset Innovation Hub (DIH), one of four Health Foundation Innovation Hubs in the United Kingdom. DIH is hosted by University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust (UHD) and is supported by 13 partners from across the health and care system, including Wessex AHSN. 

As a key partner, we support DIH in three key areas: 

Our 2022-23 work included conducting interviews with system leaders, to understand and gain insight on innovation adoption and spread across the Dorset health and care system.

We also collected data to understand the Hub’s impact, including a baseline survey of attitudes towards innovation amongst the Integrated Care System (ICS) workforce (Wessex AHSN Attitudes to Innovation Survey (ATIS)), for reporting in 2023-24.

We identified internal data collectors, local senior health and care staff working on the ground in Dorset, who could help gather information on attributable events. Alongside training local data collectors, we developed a data collection form, which has been used to detail 64 events. 

We worked with DIH partners to deliver two implementations of innovations matched to local health and care needs. First, was the adoption and spread of a placental growth factor-based test for pre-eclampsia. The test was part of the MedTech Funding Mandate (MTFM), which aims to ensure innovative medical devices, diagnostics, and digital products benefit patients faster. 

Second, was an exploration of innovative solutions to the complex problem of malnutrition in ageing people. Two Innovation Unit development days were observed, and a third has been planned.

A Social Network Analysis using a sociometric tool is underway. We also conducted an analysis of DIH’s Twitter feed, and produced a draft report. 

We also delivered two Fundamentals of Innovation courses to health and care staff within Dorset ICS, offering virtual and in-person training. 

Our work has been informed and guided by our patient partners, who have engaged in the systems-based evaluation and have contributed to its delivery, with representation on our working group.

Wessex Health Partners (WHP) is a strategic partnership of the region’s leading NHS organisations, universities and Wessex AHSN. With a mission to accelerate better health and care through research, innovation and training, WHP aims to improve patient outcomes and population health, both in Wessex and globally.   

With the support of Wessex AHSN, WHP moved into a new phase of development in 2022-23. As the host organisation, we have played a full role in progressing discussions to establish the partnership, driving the development of infrastructure and processes that will enable WHP to succeed in generating greater collaborative and interdisciplinary research, alongside the faster development and adoption of innovation at scale.  

As well as providing support to WHP across its core business functions, including finance, HR and communications, our leadership expertise within innovation adoption, implementation science and innovator support has continued to contribute to the development of the partnership. In turn, we have benefited from ever closer links to the expertise that exists within WHP. 

Throughout 2022-23, we have worked collaboratively with WHP’s other founding partners to achieve several important objectives, including shaping the recruitment processes for key leadership roles and supporting the development of the Full Business Case (FBC). 

The approval of the FBC by WHP’s board in June 2022 was a significant milestone, enabling the appointment of Professor William Rosenberg as Chair and Christine McGrath as Managing Director.   

Since then, founding partners have delivered several other important projects and initiatives. This includes the development of a Collaboration Agreement outlining the expectations and responsibilities of WHP, its partners and host, and support for regional infrastructure like the Wessex Research Hubs, hosted by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN) Wessex. Year one priorities are underway.

WHP has also supported nine collaborative applications for research and innovation funding, aiming to strengthen the region’s collective ability to tackle its greatest health and care challenges. After successfully securing funding to establish the Wessex Secure Data Environment (SDE), a regional meeting was held to take the project forward. 

Wessex Secure Data Environment  

Secure Data Environments (SDEs), previously known as Trusted Research Environments (TREs), support research, real-world evaluation and service planning by creating safe and ethical spaces for the storing and sharing of data for analysis.  

By supporting the highest standards of information governance, transparency and security, SDEs promote patient and public confidence in the trustworthiness of the values and processes that underpin the use of health and care data beyond direct provision of care. 

In 2021-22, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) successfully led a bid on behalf of Wessex Health Partners (WHP) to become one of four geographies in the country to pilot federating data at scale across more than one Integrated Care System (ICS). This established the Wessex SDE, a secure and publicly trusted learning health system using health data for research.  

As a key partner from the outset, Wessex AHSN has been integral to the development of the SDE. In 2022-23, our support has included the design of patient and public engagement, which has helped to shape ways of bringing the views of Wessex citizens, particularly seldom heard voices, into the discussion, as well as the identification of key partners in the region. We have also facilitated exploratory discussions with industry to understand how they might be partners in future.

We have shared AHSN expertise in innovation adoption in complex systems to support strong partnerships embracing clinicians, data scientists, researchers, citizens, industry, policy makers and health and care system leaders. We have also provided adoption support advice where early use cases have the potential to be tested for proof of concept or considered for early scaling. One of those use cases for the project explores federating data to provide a real-world evaluation of the system impact of adopting FeNO (Fractional exhaled Nitric Oxide) in the management of asthma

In November 2022, Wessex AHSN hosted a major conference for local and national stakeholders, bringing together clinicians, citizens, policy makers, data scientists, managers and academics to review progress and plan for the future. UHS, under the leadership of Professor Chris Kipps, continues the development of the Wessex SDE on behalf of WHP. A second phase of funding in 2022-23 supported further work on the technical infrastructure, conceptual model and use cases to test its functionality.  

“Christine’s appointment as Wessex Health Partners’ inaugural Managing Director marks a milestone in the organisation's journey. With a wealth of knowledge and experience in research and innovation from working with policy makers, NIHR, industry, integrated care boards and NHS R&D leaders, and a proven track record of achievement in the NHS, she brings not only a vast array of talent and expertise, but also a unique opportunity to drive strategic objectives and bring positive change to the health and wellbeing of the Wessex region. This is a truly momentous appointment, and one that holds great hope for the future of the region.”

Dr Peter Phiri, Director of Research and Innovation (Interim), Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust

Back to main annual review