Written by: UHUK

UHUK is a partnership of urgent and integrated health NHS service providers supporting more than 60% of the patient population in the UK and Ireland.    

They provide Out of Hours services and clinical assessment, urgent primary care, NHS 111 and community services. 

NHS urgent and integrated care providers are coming under increased pressure due to increased patient demand and constrained service capacity.  

Over the last 12 months there has been a 30% increase in patients using NHS 111 services, but this hasn’t been matched by similar levels of funding. As a result, providers are finding it increasingly difficult to expand their services and to continue to invest in and reward staff. 

UHUK and its members recognised that necessity breeds innovation and that as providers delivering direct patient care they are best positioned to create the solutions that are required.  

Nine UHUK members covering approximately 40% of the UK population have come together to pioneer a first-of-a-kind innovation programme to help solve their most pressing challenges and harness the power of innovation to deliver better care. 

The UHUK Innovation Programme was formed by establishing a partnership with the West Midlands Health and Wellbeing Innovation Network (WMHWIN) – part of the University of Warwick to deliver a new challenge led innovation programme.  

Establishing our foundations  

The first step in the process was to define our main challenge and what we wanted to achieve. We undertook research and delivered workshops to gather requirements, establish aligned incentives and craft challenge statements that the market could respond to. 

Workforce Optimisation emerged as the overall programme objective which was then broken into 3 smaller goals:  

  1. Create ways to share information to improve call handling time and pathways assessments.
  2. Provide symptom specific worsening advice to save time, improve safety and reduce inappropriate re-attendance to services.
  3. Improve patient expectation by providing access to queue management and coordination information. 

The 3 S’s – Scouting, Screening and Selection  

Having established what we wanted to achieve the next stage was to test the market to see what solutions that were out there could help us.  

Through extensive knowledge of the health innovation ecosystem the WMHWIN team:  

  • Scouted 74 solutions that addressed some of the challenges.  
  • Screened 34 applications and invited 7 to pitch.  
  • Selected 4 Programme participants. 
 The selected participants were: 
  • Ummanu - an intelligent automation platform for healthcare providers who want to improve their efficiencies in delivering remote consultations 
  • Inicio - a clinically lead, patient centred company, designed to bring access to digital health capabilities and expertise across health systems 
  • Medwise - an AI-powered, fully customisable search platform that enables healthcare professionals to quickly find actionable answers at the point of care 
  • Isla Care - a solution supporting remote medicine and managing patient data securely, for all specialties to provide clinicians with an at-a-glance view of a patient’s condition and progress using photos, videos, sound recordings and structured forms 

Creating a culture for innovation 

UHUK and its members need solutions to help the 42million they support everyday so are uniquely positioned to bring together the resources required for innovation

The UHUK members that pioneered the Innovation Programme were able to provide the core resources that enabled tangible co-creation: 

  • Challenge managers and CEO leaders – operational experts with a nuanced understanding of the challenges dedicated time to the programme.  
  • Clinicians who helped by test the developments. 
  • Data for benchmarking and development purposes. 

NHS stakeholder participation was critical to ensure that the solutions developed were scalable and interoperable, so NHS digital and transformation leaders were engaged to ensure the conditions are created for the innovations to be adopted at national and regional levels. 

To enable truly open innovation existing infrastructure suppliers were invited to: 

  • Ensure that any immediate implementation challenges were overcome. 
  • Encourage collaboration and continuous innovation. 

Harnessing these resources and people and creating a common ‘can do’ mindset was critical to establishing a functional innovation ecosystem. 

Leading rapid and collaborative innovation  

The programme required exceptional levels of collaboration and innovation between participants.  

This enabled direct problem-solution-fit to be explored. It also opened opportunities that, given the right conditions, could bring about transformational change. All participants demonstrated an open, collaborative and creative mindset by rapidly coming together to identify, validate, and in some instances, develop system integrations.  

A commitment to open innovation was assessed at selection for participating solution providers. During challenge definition it was clear that certain challenges would require multiple solutions.  

The symptom specific worsening advice challenge required both an advice discovery solution and a delivery mechanism. Isla Care and Medwise Ai were identified as two possible solutions and brought into the programme.   

They were able to rapidly identify the solution requirements and complete the development work needed to build an integration. They put competition one side and demonstrated a real commitment to collaboration that both solved the challenge and set a precedent of interoperable innovation for the future.  

Another example of rapid open innovation was a collaboration between Ummanu, Inicio and Medwise.  

They recognised an opportunity to combine their solutions to create an end-to-end call handling, triage, transcription and referral service. This solution solved elements of all three challenge areas which provided significant value to all participating UHUK members.  

An initial assessment of the aggregated benefits has already shown an estimated 9-14 minutes of time saved per assessment – this is equivalent to up to 2 hours saved per 8 hour call handler shift! 

UHUK Innovation Programme as a scalable platform 

The UHUK Innovation Programme has now established a framework for successful NHS, Industry and Non-Profit collaboration. 

It has delivered value to the participating innovators in the form of future commercial opportunities and has enabled UHUK members to start to solve challenges that face the whole of the NHS.  

The programme has delivered all of this whilst helping clinicians to be more productive and enabling patients to receive better care. 

This is just the beginning of the UHUK innovation programme, and we are already planning how we grow it further. We are pioneering a new way of working together that will incentivise the market to continually innovate.  

Find out more at HETT Show, 26-27th September, ExCeL London

Join us at HETT Show on 26-27th September at ExCeL London to hear more about the UHUK Innovation programme in the session 'Delivering Innovation to Support the Pressing Needs of Health and Care'.


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