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62INNOVATION UK MAKING A REAL AND TANGIBLE DIFFERENCE Joshua Pratt, aged two, is one of 310 children whose life has potentially been transformed by NIHR's ran-domised controlled trial of ion- exchange water sof-teners for the treatment of atopic eczema in children. Joshua's mother Jo says: " Just after birth, Joshua developed eczema. He had raw, weeping skin all over his face and patches over the rest of his body. It was terribly distressing for him and the rest of our family. We found out about the SWET trial when our GP referred us to Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. We wanted to join it because we were keen to do anything that might help Joshua and other children with eczema. " We had a water softener - a big box installed under the sink that we had to load with blocks of salt for 12 weeks to remove minerals from the water. We also had a special watch called an Actiwatch for Joshua to wear to see how much he fidgeted at night ( a measure of the discomfort the eczema was causing him). " A nurse monitored Joshua's skin while the softener was in place and then again for another four weeks after it was removed. Joshua's skin was masses bet-ter and since the softener was taken away he has remained eczema- free, although obviously we don't know for certain whether this was because of the softener. " Research like this is definitely money well spent and it is good to think that something so simple could help other babies and young children to avoid the misery Joshua went through." The trial that Joshua was involved in was led by Pro-fessor Hywel Williams, an NIHR Senior Investigator. Professor Williams directs the Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology at Nottingham. He founded and is now director of the Nottingham Clinical Trials Unit and was chair of the Research for Patient Benefit pro-gramme for the East Midlands from 2006 to 2009. He has published more than 250 peer- reviewed papers and three books, and raised over £ 7 million in non-commercial grant funding for investigating skin dis-eases. He says: " As a dermatologist, I'm extremely proud to be a Sen-ior Investigator. It's made me so much more commit-ted to spreading the word about research among the dermatology community. It's a way of saying research is everybody's business. It's not just for academics working in universities and colleges, it's for all of us." About the NIHR The National Institute for Health Research provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, main-tained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastruc-ture it needs to conduct first- class research funded by the government and its partners alongside high- quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to sup-port outstanding individuals ( both leaders and collabo-rators), working in world- class facilities ( both NHS and university), conducting leading- edge research focused on the needs of patients. For more information, visit: http:// www. nihr. ac. uk/ Healthcare national institute for health research

INNOVATION UK63 With its attitude of " anyone can", an innovation culture is flourishing in the NHS ranks. Jenny Sims takes a look at how the NHS encourages bright ideas What drives innovation in health? Innovation in the health service is not an option, but a necessity, essential to its survival and ability to cope with the economic and demographic challenges looming before it. Fortunately, this realisation has united the " big guns" of government, industry and university research. And 2008 and 2009 have been landmark years in launching major partnership initiatives with all three sectors on board. Evidence shows that an innovation culture is up and running, and filtering not only throughout every level of the NHS, but also up and down its ranks. An attitude of " anyone can" has arrived, and examples are flourishing of new ways of working, new products and new services being developed as the result of ideas from hospital por-ters to laboratory technicians, midwives and consultants. The 1.3 million NHS employees have got the message. NHS Innovation is not an exclusive club - but open to anyone. And the independent and voluntary sectors are increasingly being welcomed as enthusiastic affiliates. The key Department of Health strategy documents driving innovation in health, include: » » High Quality Care for All, 2008 » » Innovation for a Healthier Future, 2009 » » The Life Sciences Blueprint, a statement from the Office for Life Sciences, July 2009 ( see box). These have either been launched or given a publicity boost at a number of key events this year, including Healthcare Innovation Expo, June 2009, London. As well as new funding, other carrots are being dan-gled in the form of awards and prizes to lure anyone with a bright idea for improving health services to get it adopted, developed and into the NHS. These include: The Innovation Challenge Prizes launched by Lord Darzi, " will engage with innovators globally and invite them to devise exciting new ways to address key health chal-lenges." Details are to be released later this year, but one of Britain's top inventors, Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind- up radio, is assisting the panel create a shortlist of possible challenges. " The prizes will be a key way in which to recognise and promote emerging best practice and the Challenges will be designed to engage a wide range of NHS staff," says the DoH. Driving inovation Improving quality of care, better patient experience, safety and better outcomes are always quoted as the driv-ers for change. But there is a significant body of evidence which suggests that innovation produces long- term savings overall. It is believed that cost- effective innovation in the public sector will not only help to provide the best quality of care, but will also stimulate the private sector and invig-orate the economy. The incentive for Boards and Chief Executives to embrace and raise the profile of innova-tion in their organisations is, simply, that it will lead to improved care. But innovation is no longer an option for England's SHAs. Alongside new investment came a legal duty " to promote innovation and support the diffusion of innovative tech-nologies and solutions throughout the health service". SHAs gratefully accepted the funding and vowed com-mitment. NHS East Midlands' response to Lord Darzi's announcement was typical. Kathy McLean, their Medical Director, said: " There is a wide range of leading- edge research across the NHS and in the East Midlands, pre-senting enormous opportunities to implement new ideas and innovations for the benefit of patients. We are com- Healthcare Healthcare overview