Dragons’ Den roars into action at Salford CCG

Francine Thorpe, director of Quality & Innovation for Salford Clinical Commissioning Group shares a glimpse into its Dragons’ Den initiative.

Digital health technologies play a key role in helping Salford CCG commission the best possible care and experience for our patients.  From telecare, and mobile apps to connected self-management tools, a range of exciting innovations have been piloted and are now being introduced.

Keeping on top on the latest breakthroughs in digital healthcare is important to the team, and our most recent approach has created quite a stir. Salford ran a Dragons’ Den style programme to identify and evaluate digital health innovations; it may seem like a quirky idea, yet the results are exceptional.

To ensure the programme was spot on, Salford partnered with innovation experts TRUSTECH. The team designed, managed, and delivered a very successful Dragons’ Den programme.

A fund of £450,000 was allocated to evaluate digital health innovations in the local community, and the programme began with a call for innovations; opened to companies, NHS organisations, voluntary organisations, universities, and independent innovators.

This early point of the programme attracted a lot of interest from people eager to show their innovations to a captive audience comprising our staff and patients. The selection and number of ideas was compelling; 22 made it to our marketplace event where proposals were demonstrated to stakeholders.

Next a shortlist was agreed and six digital innovations were invited to brave the den. Four were successful:

  • The Guardian Angel Project (Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust)
    • A digital platform to enable Salford residents at risk of falls to live more safely in their own homes.
  • Salford Active Walk (BetterPoints Ltd)
    • A behavioural change app which provides evidence-led motivational reward programmes to promote physical activity.
  • Improving Pharmacy Communications in Transition of Care (Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust)
    • An integrated electronic pharmacy referral platform to improve medicines optimisation, reduce wastage and avoid hospital readmissions.
  • Salford CTZN app for Young People (Social Sense Ltd)
    • An app to help young people in Salford to improve self-confidence, self-esteem and encourage strong mental wellbeing.

The innovation proposals were showcased to Salford CCG’s panel of Dragons; and just like the television programme, candidates pitched their ideas within an allocated timeframe, answering any questions the Dragons put forward.

Whilst it is fun, different, and attracts an enormous amount of interest, on a more serious note, it has the potential to deliver great results that support the transformation of health and social care services. The four successful innovations are now being piloted and under evaluation at Salford CCG.

Our experience of running a Dragons’ Den programme, with the support of TRUSTECH, has proved hugely beneficial.  For Salford CCG, we benefit on a number of levels, not least as we have identified the latest ideas to hit the market that we would otherwise not been aware of, but also because it helps towards our commitment to maintaining an innovative culture and ultimately improves patient care.

This programme also creates a buzz for individuals, and small companies with healthcare ideas, who are pleased to have an initiative that allows them to showcase their ideas to the NHS, particularly as healthcare is such a challenging market to crack; effectively it removes the barriers for digital health innovators.


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