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Medic backed by Innovation Agency joins NHS innovation accelerator

An NHS innovator supported by the Innovation Agency has succeeded in becoming part of a prestigious, national accelerator programme.

Dr Michael Watts is one of 17 new NHS National Innovation Accelerator Fellows, selected to help spread cutting-edge solutions with the potential to transform healthcare.

Michael is co-founder of Birkenhead-based Blum Health and co-creator of a patient-centred, emergency-support software system designed to improve safety in maternity - Emergency Role Allocation (ERA).

The system is the brainchild of a midwife, Caroline Lacy of Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, who has been supported by South West Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and West of England AHSN. Caroline wanted to improve the way staff responded in a maternity emergency and met Michael through the NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs programme.

Michael and his team worked with Caroline to produce a touch screen call bell system that supports communication and role allocation during obstetric emergencies. It means clinicians attend knowing what the emergency is, with the right team and tools to support them. The aim is to reduce delays in interventions that could prevent outcomes such as foetal brain injury or major haemorrhage.

Caroline Lacy yesterday said:

‘’I wanted to apply some of the tried and tested principles of Advanced Trauma Life Support to the way we respond to obstetric emergencies. We should challenge the acceptance that it’s okay to run in to an emergency to have to run back out to make the right phone calls (2222), get the right people and the right equipment.

“No matter how skilled individuals are, the key to great teamwork is getting the right people in the room, knowing in advance what their roles are.

“It’s fantastic that Michael will get support to further develop and spread the ERA system through the NHS Innovation Accelerator; I think it will improve care not only in maternity but in other specialities as the same problem of using antiquated bell systems is observed across the NHS.”

Michael and Blum Health have designed and developed a number of NHS-ready software systems being used in the North West and across the country, including a redesign of the Mersey Burns app, initially created by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals.

Michael yesterday said:

“I am very excited about being accepted onto the National Innovation Accelerator programme, which I hope will be the enabler to wider audiences experiencing the value that the Emergency Role Allocation system brings to maternity and beyond.

“This system is aimed at improving the safety of patients when they need it most; for example, by increasing effective emergency management in maternity, even if we prevent just one foetal brain injury it would not only save a life but by clear auditability we could prevent the risk of avoidable litigation, which would, on average, be the same cost as paying for ERAS for 97 years."

ERA has the potential to be used in other areas where there are high frequency, high risk emergencies such as acute medical and surgical wards.

The Innovation Agency has supported Blum Health throughout its growth over the last three years and has brokered several collaborations in the region. In Lancashire and South Cumbria, Michael was able to help endoscopy specialists who wanted to reduce growing numbers of cancelled operations; while in Cheshire and Merseyside he redeveloped the Mersey Burns app to meet compliance standards.

Innovation Agency Associate Director of Enterprise and Growth Mike Kenny yesterday said:

“It’s exciting to work with someone like Michael who is so passionate about his work. He really stands out because, as a clinician as well as an entrepreneur, he has an excellent perspective on the challenges facing our system.

“We’ve nurtured a talent and I am delighted to see him achieve a highly-sought after place with the NHS Innovation Accelerator.”

The NIA is an award-winning NHS England initiative, working to support NHS Long Term Plan priorities by accelerating uptake of promising innovations for patient, population and NHS staff benefit. It is commissioned by the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative, hosted by UCLPartners and delivered in partnership with the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) including the Innovation Agency.

Each NIA Fellow and their innovation are selected through a robust, multi-stage application and assessment process involving an expert panel of clinical, patient and commercial assessors.


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