Winds of change
13 January 2023
We are in the midst of a ‘perfect healthcare storm’. It was building steadily before Covid laid it bare.
We’re acutely familiar with these issues: changing demographics, workforce, waiting lists, weariness and of course, winter.
Amongst the challenges, Leeds is unmoved in its ‘best city’ ambition – it is needed now more than ever. This includes best for health, wellbeing and related research and innovation. It’s a bold stance and one with a self-imposed deadline of 2030.
How does a city tackle such a storm so it can fulfil such a huge ambition?
As the Health Foundation’s Innovation Director recently emphasised, there is an urgent need to radically innovate, evaluate, implement and adapt. We need to think differently about how services are delivered, with brave, disruptive, new ways of doing things and working in partnership is vital.
Partnership is key
It’s easy to say but complicated to do. However we have a great track record of investing in relationships and working across traditional boundaries.
This includes us – Leeds Academic Health Partnership. Ours is one of the largest of its kind in the UK and the only one in Yorkshire and Humber.
We bring together partners’ world-class expertise to help solve some of the city’s hardest health and care challenges. Our partners include the city’s three main universities, our local NHS organisations, Leeds City Council, Leeds City College, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership as well as industry and third sector organisations.
As we know, people’s health and wellbeing is about so much more than the important role of health and care services, but also about social and economic determinants as Sir Michael Marmot has repeatedly shown.
So we provide the space and opportunity for partners to come together and consider challenges and improvements from a ‘whole system’ perspective.
We look for opportunities where university expertise can enhance the health and care system. For example, academic rigour helps to support innovative solutions by measuring and evaluating their impact across Leeds and West Yorkshire. Academic research also offers important, new understanding for how to tackle health and wellbeing issues.
Our recent spotlight on one of our academic partners, Leeds Trinity University, highlights a few examples.
How can we help spread the impact of new research which is helping young people become more mentally resilient?
Or how can world-leading research into recovery from drug addiction and alcohol help reduce inequalities?
Working with partners such as the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network, the Leeds Health and Care Partnership, and dovetailing with the work of the West Yorkshire Innovation Hub, we are exploring how we bring in industry innovations to ease the city’s most pressing health and care needs. By listening carefully to what the city’s health and care system is saying are the most urgent needs, we can then consider designing focused challenges to industry innovators to help meet those needs.
By convening and enabling partners to work together to consider the art of the possible, we help lift perspectives beyond organisational pressures – however intense they may be – so they can explore how to do things differently and where it makes sense to do this together.
Should our focus be on industry innovations to automate repetitive manual tasks so that staff are freed to spend more time in frontline care?
Should we make better use of synthetic data for trialling innovations, to speed up the process from development to deployment?
And could we create more and better opportunities to study and validate innovations in primary care and adult social care settings?
Aboard the Arc
There are strong, prevailing winds of change behind us bringing exciting new infrastructure and impetus.
The Leeds Innovation Partnership, comprising some of our core members, is developing the city’s innovation vision, which manifests in the emerging Innovation Arc.
The Arc is one of the largest regeneration schemes in the North. It brings together a series of innovation neighbourhoods, formed around the natural anchors of our main universities, the proposed adult and children’s hospitals, and major private sector partners.
It’s about combining the brilliant assets we already have with exciting new infrastructure to foster an environment where entrepreneurs and innovators can be confident they are surrounded by the knowledge and support to make an impact. Health innovation is right at the heart of this community.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust plans to build two new hospitals in what would be one of the most important developments in the city for a generation. It will transform healthcare in the region as well as be the catalyst for the new innovation village, creating a world-class hub for research, innovation and technology in health and life sciences.
So there is no shortage of energy or ideas across our partnership about innovating to drive much needed change and improvement. We’ll be exploring this further with city and industry partners at a city health innovation workshop in March.
I’m delighted to lead our role in identifying the gaps and barriers, and helping partners to work together to bring their ideas to fruition and make a real difference for the people of Leeds and West Yorkshire.
Kate Lodge is Partnership Director for Leeds Academic Health Partnership.
This was first published as West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership’s leadership blog, 13 January 2023.
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