National attention for home-grown innovations that are helping people with long-term conditions

Once again, locally-developed pioneering approaches to using technology in healthcare have been showcased at a national level.  

More than 15 million people in England have a long-term condition (such as high blood pressure, depression, dementia and arthritis) – a health problem that can’t be cured but can be controlled by medication or other therapies. This figure is set to increase over the next 10 years, particularly those people with three or more conditions at once. 

With this in mind, primary care (general practice) across the country is focusing on developing confidence, capability and capacity (dubbed the three ‘Cs’) in the workforce in order to cope with increasing demands on services. One solution is to embrace technology that can improve efficiency and also to empower patients to take more responsibility for their own health condition(s).

In Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, this evolved with the addition of a further four ‘Cs’ (competence, creativity, communication and continuity) for using technology to help patients take control of their long-term conditions and lifestyle habits.

Dr Ruth Chambers, Clinical Chair of NHS Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group, explained: “Our initial upskilling of practice nurses across Staffordshire to become digital champions in their general practices has gone really well. We’re now running two more cohorts participating in ‘action learning’ so that they will provide a range of technology enabled care to their patients with long-term conditions.” 

This work was featured in the June edition of leading peer-reviewed journal Practice Nurse. Entitled ‘You too can be a digital nurse champion’, the four-page article highlighted a number of innovations that had been developed in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. 

Patient Online is a national programme to enable patients to access their own medical records and test results. By helping a patient to understand more about their condition, it is hoped they would be more prepared to discuss their health and wellbeing when consulting their GP and/or practice nurse. In turn, they should be more likely to agree to and follow a shared care plan. Backed by general practice, 14 million patients in England are already signed up.

Florence (or Flo) was developed in Stoke-on-Trent to help patients with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is an interactive telehealth platform which sends text messages to patients offering reminders and advice, or asking the patient to submit readings such as blood pressure. Flo has been recognised nationally as one of 10 selected innovations that have ‘helped change the face of healthcare’. 

Under the banner ‘Together We’re Better’, the NHS and local authorities across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are working to find ways of improving health and care services for everyone in our communities within the budgets available.  

Simon Whitehouse, Director of Together We’re Better said: “It is fantastic to see that work from the Together We’re Better Digital programme is being recognised at a national level. We hope that these innovative programmes, developed in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, will soon be able to benefit people across the UK.” 

Dr Chambers added: “The national funding for this programme is associated with the GP Forward View. We will be sharing our learning in several publications such as Practice Nurse and across the four regional GP Nurse Boards in England, culminating in a national conference in Birmingham this November.”