News, NHS trust

New research and innovation strategy from University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust

University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust has introduced a new research and innovation strategy for 2023-2028, setting out plans for digital to play a role in helping the trust to meet environmental goals in their processes along with aims to widen access to new technologies and treatments through system working.

Principles for the development of research and innovation include ensuring it improves the quality of service provided for patients; focuses on the quality of patient care; realises the potential of the multi-professional workforce; allows all staff to have the opportunity to contribute; helps improve efficiency; and ensures the trust plays its part in health and care research in Sussex.

The strategy establishes aims across patient experience, quality, people, sustainability, systems and partnerships, and research and innovation. On the latter, the trust sets out plans to grow a “distinctive national and international profile for research and innovation excellence” by 2028,  and to establish research excellence building on the needs of patients and the local population. Specific changes include improving the use of evidence-based practice, demonstrating excellence in research and innovation processes, and developing evidence of the impact and recognition of research and innovation at national and international levels.

Digital is noted to have a particular role in the trust’s plans around sustainability, with the strategy sharing plans to harness growing digital maturity to ensure research is “efficient and empowered by data and digital tools”. With regards to existing work, University Hospitals Sussex highlights an example of the way in which technology has been used to reduce their carbon footprint through the implementation of a digital surgical pathway, describing how a group of orthopaedic staff set out to digitise the patient pathway from first referral to discharge for lower limb surgery in total hip and knee replacement patients. With the digital pathway replacing in-person visits where appropriate and as such minimising travel, the trust predicts a reduction of 4.7 to 8.4 metric tonnes of CO2, along with a saving of 63,427 pieces of paper or 63kg of CO2. Feedback shows that 75 percent of patients across a wide range of ages have reported satisfaction with their experience of the digital system, and the trust notes potential to scale up the initiative to other surgical pathways.

Looking to the future in this area, the trust emphasises aims to make delivery of research and innovation more environmentally sustainable and efficient, with study set-up and delivery processes “enabled by digital solutions and greater integration of data along patient pathways.” By 2028, aims include growing commercial and early-phase clinical trial portfolio portfolio to increase income and to be using research and innovation to support the trust’s vision for environmental sustainability, with specific changes to include increasing the number of innovation studies delivered, developing “fit-for-the-future” clinical research facilities, growing commercial activity, and increasing research income.

Under systems and partnerships, the trust’s aim is to build shared research and innovation infrastructure and capacity to collaborate on shared strategic research and innovation priorities. By 2028, the trust aims to ensure that it has established strong links with commercial, charitable and academic partners to help access new treatments and technologies; that it is contributing to both national and international collaborations; and that it is maximising partnership working to increase capacity for innovation.

For patient experience, the aim is for all patients to have “equal, easy access to participation in high-quality research and innovation”. By 2028, the trust is committed to increasing patient engagement, providing patients with easy-to-access information on research studies, and designing research to maximise its positive impact on the local population. Specific changes here include increasing the number of high impact studies and the diversity of participants recruited to them, increasing patient awareness and measuring this through patient survey and feedback data, and growing the contribution of patients to research programmes.

On quality, the aim is to drive up the quality of care and addressing the wider health needs of the local population, including health inequalities and underserved populations. By 2028, the trust is hoping to maximise the benefit to patients of “being treated by a research active NHS organisation”; link research and innovation to the trust’s quality improvement programme; give patients access to innovative treatment options through clinical trials; and increase locally-led research. Actions in this area will include increasing research output, measured by data on the “number and quality of peer-review research publications by trust staff”, and growing the impact of research and innovation on patient care.

In terms of people, the trust’s aim is to give all staff the opportunity to contribute to research and innovation. By 2028, it will look to ensure that staff feel confident to support patients in participating in research; that organisational leaders promote a research-positive culture; that there is inclusive access to research career development; and that research and innovation is embedded within roles to help retain the workforce. Specific changes will include increasing the number of staff who are research active, allowing staff to benefit from research training and clinical academic career support, and increasing research output led by the trust.

The implementation of the strategy will be supported by “robust governance arrangements” strengthened by collaboration with system partners, with responsibility for the delivery of the strategy assigned to the Research and Innovation Strategic Steering Group.

To read the strategy in full, please click here.

In July, we covered the news that University Hospitals Sussex had started an early market engagement phase as part of their EPR procurement.

June saw us report on Sussex ICS’s strategy, in which one of the key priorities is to improve use of digital technologies and information. Read more here. We also took a look at the ICS’s ‘plan for our population’ here.

Earlier in the year, we interviewed chief transformation, innovation and digital officer at NHS Sussex, Lisa Emery, on their successes in digital and data and their plans for the future.