Funding boost for Lancashire health projects

By Lancashire Business View

13 Mar 2017

£180,000 funding has been granted to innovations designed to improve the health of the county's residents.

Four projects have won funding from the Innovation Agency; an app prescribed by GPs to help change lifestyles in Skelmersdale; portable technology to improve the care of patients with atrial fibrillation, an irregular or fast heart rhythm, in East Lancashire; a falls prevention programme in residential homes; and a health coaching initiative to give patients more control of their own care.

The Innovation Agency is the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast and acts as a catalyst for health innovation and economic growth.

Dr Liz Mear, chief executive of the Innovation Agency, said: “We’re delighted to support the projects in Lancashire which will not only benefit patients now, but create a lasting health legacy for the next generation.”

The four projects are among ten successful applications to the Innovation Agency’s Transformation Through Innovation Fund.

In Skelmersdale, funding has been awarded to NHS West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver a ‘BetterPoints’ programme, in which GPs will ‘prescribe’ an app to patients which monitors how well they carry out an agreed set of healthy activities. Through making small lifestyle changes, patients earn rewards such as high street points or donations to charity.

Mike Maguire, chief officer at NHS West Lancashire CCG, said: “Most of Skelmersdale is within the top five per cent of the most deprived areas in the nation and we are trying to improve the health of our population.

“The funding from the Innovation Agency will provide a simple way to help people adopt healthier lifestyles. The ‘BetterPoints’ app will reward people for undertaking activities which have a positive impact on their health and wellbeing, whether that’s having a daily walk, using stairs rather than a lift, or reducing their intake of alcohol or sugar.

“BetterPoints is part of our wider Well Skelmersdale initiative aiming to improve the health of the 40,000 population.”

NHS East Lancashire CCG has received funding for a project to improve the lives of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). This will provide portable technology enabling people to monitor their condition at home, giving them better control and improving the accuracy of warfarin dosage.

Professor Umesh Chauhan, Pendle GP and the lead GP for cardiovascular disease, is leading the project: “In the UK there are currently more than one million people diagnosed with AF, a heart condition which causes an irregular heart rhythm.

“Despite AF increasing the risk of stroke, heart failure and death, studies show that anticoagulation therapy (blood thinning medication to prevent blood clots), to reduce the risk of AF related stroke is underused in the UK.

“In East Lancashire we have more than 5,000 patients using warfarin but we also recognise that those who are ‘self-monitoring’ are achieving better control of their condition. We are working with GP practices and their patients with AF to create a system to support self-monitoring. Patients can use a portable, accurate device which feeds information back to the clinic and ultimately avoid frequent clinic visits.”

A project to prevent falls in Lancashire residential homes has received funding. There is a predicted 40 per cent increase in falls by older people in the next 20 years.

‘Steady On’ has been developed by the falls prevention team at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Central Lancashire and is now being adopted countywide.

Addressing residents’ physical and mental well-being increases their independence, reduces the level of support required and reduces the number of falls. The project is used alongside body-worn sensors and a mobile app to assess mobility, falls risks and frailty and includes community support, education, physiotherapy and podiatry. This approach has helped to reduce the numbers of older people needing to attend A&E, keeping people safe and reducing pressure on the NHS.

Lancashire County Council director of public health Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said: “Suffering a fall can be traumatic, causing serious injury and disrupting lives.

“The funding from the Innovation Agency will be used for the next step of this project: using technology to assess the risk of falls and frailty of those attending education sessions in the community; and developing falls prevention plans across more than 40 residential homes, which will help more than 500 people.”

A joint bid from Healthier Lancashire and the North West Coast Strategic Clinical Network as part of the transformation plan for Lancashire and South Cumbria, secured funding to provide health coaching.

Health coaching requires clinicians to empower patients in making decisions about their care; training is provided to clinicians in how to put patients in the driving seat when carrying out consultations. The approach has been shown to improve care and patient satisfaction; and reduce demands on health services.

A programme of training for clinicians will involve nine CCGs, more than 200 GP practices, five acute NHS hospital trusts, a health and wellbeing trust, a single specialty learning disability trust, Lancashire and Cumbria County Councils and Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool Councils.

Eleanor Garnett-Bentley, consultant in public health in Lancashire, said: “Through region-wide health coaching we hope to change the nature of clinical relationships particularly for patients with diabetes and long term conditions.

“Ultimately the programme will encourage independence, self-management and improve care through a better conversation between specialists and their patients. Health coaching is one of five national priorities for NHS England’s ‘Realising the Value’ programme and across the country health coaching has shown it increases patients’ activation and motivation to self-manage medication, adopt health behaviours, and can reduce unplanned hospital admissions.”

One of the GP practices which already supports health coaching is Ashtrees Surgery in Carnforth, whose patient Mrs Margaret James-Barber said: “I’m a former long distance walker and now have a heart condition. I have decided that I don’t want to take statins and my GP supports that decision and helps me manage my condition with inhalers, aspirin and exercise.

“My GPs are brilliant; they listen to what I want and they support my decision, they follow my lead rather than the other way around.” Dr Liz Mear, chief executive of the Innovation Agency, said: “We are delighted to support our health partners to bring in innovations which will improve health and create efficiencies in the system.”

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