The UK has one of the richest health data ecosystems in the world; however it is not always easy to maximise the benefits from this data. Data may be hard to find, of poor quality and often held in separate databases with direct access hampered by issues of information governance, costs, and use restrictions. Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) is modelling a new way of partnership working to make more efficient use of this extensive existing data resource.

We are developing Research Satellites, through which we intend to capture and encourage existing collaborations between partner organisations, particularly where innovation opportunities exist, and exploit these to translate research into patient and economic benefit. Our first Research Satellite ‘Health Research Data Hub in Surgery’ is a partnership between Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust, Newcastle University, Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria, The National Innovation Centre for Data and Health Education England North East.

Each year 10 million patients undergo a surgical procedure in the UK, accounting for 10% of the NHS budget. A similar amount is spent on dealing with adverse surgical outcomes. Our vision is to capture real world data across the surgical pathway including from theatres and use existing and emerging robotics and AI systems to create a digital surgical pathway.

Outcomes (achieved or projected)

The Digital surgical pathway will transform surgery by:

  • Improving outcomes and reducing NHS costs by creating personalised surgical plans, accounting for individual health factors
  • Transforming future training in surgical and non-technical skills through enhanced cognitive technologies such as augmented/virtual reality and simulation

We are currently in discussions with Health Education England and the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) to set up a digital skills hub in the North East. The NHIP is facilitating engagement with national stakeholders to support Work Package 1: Surgical Digital Twin, an individual digital record for each patient throughout their surgical journey. We are also collaborating with potential users of the Hub including industry, academic and third sector organisations. Funding provided by NHIP is “pump-priming” patient and public involvement mechanisms through VOICE and Use my Data.

Who will benefit and how

The satellite will draw on and contribute to the NHIP cross cutting priorities of Research and Innovation, Education and People and Culture producing benefits to:

  • Patients by reducing complications and better outcomes.
  • The NHS by reducing surgical infections, hospital stay and reducing waiting times.
  • Researchers and clinicians by facilitating faster and easier access to data for surgical trials, leading to more innovation, better surgical care and increased investment in UK healthcare.
  • Life sciences and healthcare companies through our AHSN and the National Innovation Centre for Data, we will provide companies with an opportunity to use their skills and expertise to co-develop innovative new solutions in partnership with the NHS.

How the NHIP contributed to the outcomes

NHIP has provided a stimulus to bring together university departments and partner organisations to create this satellite, pioneer this new approach and create a digital surgical pathway.  Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust (NuTH) has the largest robotic surgery programme in the UK. Four robots currently deliver surgery across eight surgical specialities. NuTH also hosts the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre while Newcastle University hosts the National Innovation Centre for Data and is a partner in the Alan Turing Institute.

Reflections and learnings

Early-stage learnings will inform the supportive conditions for this Satellite to flourish, which can be applied to the development of other Satellites in the future.

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