Peter Carpenter, Service Delivery Director, reflects on the past year and how KSS AHSN has supported the health and care system by bringing collaborative minds together to make a bigger difference. He looks back on successful partnership working such as the Huntingdon’s Disease project in Surrey Heartlands, evaluating the use of blood pressure monitors in Sussex, and the digitalisation of RESTORE2 in care homes in Kent and Medway.

Looking ahead, Peter explains why KSS AHSN is so focused on tackling health inequalities, the support we can provide on the journey to Net Zero, our offer for the NHS workforce, and how everything we do comes together to make a difference for the people who need support, now more than ever, within our communities.

What are some of the delivery highlights from 2021/22?

We’ve been successful in delivering the expectations of our national commissioners on programmes ranging from mental health, to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Working with partners, we’ve exceeded by 200% targets for the number of Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide (FeNO) devices spread and adopted across the region, as well as the number of children benefiting from the QbTest diagnostic screening tool for assessing ADHD.

New partnerships with pharma and with the third sector have also been successful. For example, joint work that we’re doing with the British Heart Foundation to evaluate use of blood pressure monitors in Sussex, and our partnership with Roche to improve pathways and better manage services and access, for patients with Huntingdon’s Disease in Surrey Heartlands.

The Surrey Heartlands Health Tech Accelerator (HTA) is a flagship partnership and programme for us, which has been a real success in the context of the pandemic. We’ve welcomed 52 innovators through the pipeline and currently there’s live testing going on with three companies. We’ve also been successful in supporting innovators to apply for SBRI Healthcare and other grant funding such as the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award.

In terms of patient safety, we’ve done a lot of work on safety culture. We’ve engaged with care homes to support them to upskill staff to adopt tools that better spot and manage deteriorating patients. Particularly, we’ve worked with Docobo and partners in Kent and Medway to roll out a digital version of RESTORE2, a tool used to identify and manage patients who are deteriorating and prevent them needing admission into secondary care. This all supports the release of capacity that’s needed in secondary care.

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been really proud of our support to the system, for instance through re-deploying staff to support use of digital solutions to help manage outpatients in Surrey or supporting the vaccination programme in Sussex.

The successful establishment of Unity Insights, formed by members of our insights and analytics team, was a major milestone for us.

What have you learnt during the year?

One of the features of the past year has been just how difficult it is to really tackle health inequalities in a meaningful way because it cuts to the core of the challenges about how services are provided. It’s challenged us, and the clinical teams we work with, to really think deeply about whether services are accessible to all.

We’re committed to helping the health and care system meet the NHS Net Zero targets, and we have recruited a lead from the private sector who brings a lot of new knowledge to our role supporting systems. We are also helping innovators think about their supply chain and the carbon reduction plans they need in response to NHS procurement guideline changes.

This all informs our work and our role as a guide, not an organisation with all the answers, but able to support colleagues in the system with knowledge of what’s working well, access to data, and insights from working across the health and care, industry and academic sectors. It’s about bringing collaborative minds together to make a bigger difference, such as working to support the new Integrated Care Boards to deliver their system-wide priorities, aligned to citizen needs.

What are your plans for this financial year?

The new polypharmacy work is very promising because the comparator tool is hugely powerful and will be progressed through networks established by our medicines optimisation work. We’ll also build on previous work of our Patient Safety Collaborative with a new programme addressing wound care.

I’m also excited about the opportunities we have through our hosting of the four implementation leads for the Applied Research Collaboration (ARC Kent Surrey Sussex), and the links with communities of practice that ARC colleagues are developing.

I think the Manchester innovation pipeline tool will really help us identify opportunities and inform the horizon scanning and other work we can do for our local stakeholders.

In terms of our offer to the health and care workforce, I’m looking forward to seeing the training we’ve provided for Digital Fellows at University Hospital Sussex NHS Foundation Trust expanded into a package that’s available to other colleagues in the system.

There’s a huge amount to do on health inequalities. The strength of knowledge and expertise in our professional group means we have a lot to bring to the table for existing partners, as well as to new collaborations.

What are your ambitions for your work over the next two to five years?

It’s essential that we’re able to look back and see that we have worked with new stakeholders to implement solutions that are meaningful in the lives of patients, based on really understanding the needs of marginalised populations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

This means developing new partnerships, for example with Citizens UK, to build on great local work to revolutionise the way we design services, based on principles of community organising and the community voice – building on examples like ‘Let’s Talk Crawley’.

For me, it’s all about making a difference for the people who need support, now more than ever, within our communities. There are too many people who go under the radar, and a true test for our strategy will be if we are able to point to meaningful progress in that area.

Read the Annual Review 2021/22 here.