SBRI Healthcare has awarded a total of £1 million to ten pioneering MedTech and Digital innovations to support the delivery of a Net Zero NHS. The new projects are funded through a nationwide call by SBRI Healthcare, in partnership with the Greener NHS Programme, and which attracted 46 applications from a range of organisations, including small businesses, technology start-ups and NHS Trusts.
Climate change has been identified as a major, and growing, threat to global health, impacting on both the provision of services and the resilience of healthcare systems. In the UK, air pollution accounts for 1 in 20 deaths with harmful emissions causing increased cases of asthma, cancer and heart disease. In October 2020 the Greener NHS Programme set the target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, in response to this reality, making the NHS the first health service in the world to make such a commitment. Innovations across all NHS operations will play a critical role in helping to achieve this goal, whilst maintaining and improving standards of care.
Competition 18 ‘Delivering a Net Zero NHS’ was launched as a development funding competition to help respond to this challenge. Specifically, innovations were called to address the following challenges (i) reducing emissions from care miles, (ii) reducing emissions from surgical pathways, (iii) reducing nitrous oxide emissions and (iv) tools to support low-carbon decision making.
The competition, developed in partnership with the Greener NHS Programme, AHSN Network and Accelerated Access Collaborative, asked for innovations which could demonstrate their impact on carbon emissions whilst considering the systematic complexity, supply chain and product lifecycles involved in their implementation. These solutions also needed to demonstrate how they will maintain and improve the overall delivery of healthcare and health outcomes within the NHS.
Dr Glenn Wells, former Director of Strategy & Planning at UKRI Medical Research Council, now Chief Partnerships Officer at the MHRA and chair of the SBRI Panel said: "Delivering a Net Zero NHS is a key ambition to tackle within the Healthcare system and it was great to see so many diverse innovations applying to the SBRI Healthcare programme to make an impact on the carbon emissions and align themselves to the NHS ambitions and more generally, commit to sustainable changes. We’ve seen some innovative digital tools that will ultimately drive reduction in care miles or that can be used as educational materials to enable greener decision making. We look forward to seeing how the SBRI Healthcare funding can support the Net Zero targets and enable the development and assessment of promising solutions."
Dr Nick Watts, Chief Sustainability Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement said: "It’s fantastic to see the wide range of organisations engaged with the first net zero focused SBRI Healthcare competition. Innovation is key to developing new tools and technologies to deliver a net zero NHS and investment will encourage action, reduce the costs of decarbonisation across the sector and improve health and care now and for generations to come."
The newly funded projects aim to bring benefits to patients and care service users, whilst reducing carbon emissions. Innovations include tools to engage with patients and clinicians, supporting clinical decision making; managing the delivery or capture of anaesthetic gases in clinical environments; providing digital solutions and telehealth, supporting patients at home and improving clinical pathways; reducing care miles through the use of drones; considering the circular economy for surgical textiles.
The projects will run up to six months, with the aim to demonstrate whether innovations are technically feasible and have an impact on carbon reductions. Innovations that can prove their impact and potential will be available to seek further funding for prototype development and evaluation. The long-term aim is for successful technologies to be adopted for use in the NHS where they can provide benefits for patients, the NHS and the overall community, whilst enabling the NHS to reach its Net Zero ambition.
Matt Whitty, Director at NHS England and NHS Improvement & CEO of the Accelerated Access Collaborative said: “The SBRI Healthcare awards supports the NHS to develop technologies and solutions to address some of the biggest healthcare challenges facing society. The fantastic range of solutions to reduce carbon emissions being announced today is a great example of the game changing potential of innovation. By supporting the most promising innovations the NHS will continue to evolve, helping meet more patients needs and encouraging more innovators to come forward with ideas that make a difference.”
The Delivering a Net Zero NHS award winning projects are:
Elegant Design and Solutions Ltd - Envirolieve® - awarded £99,703: A novel delivery system to reduce Entonox consumption.
Anaesthetic gases alone are responsible for over 2% of all NHS emissions. Entonox (commonly known as gas and air) is a cheap, highly effective painkiller used by 80% of women in labour and millions of patients worldwide but is 300 times more environmentally damaging than carbon-dioxide. Envirolieve® is a portable, breathing system, which significantly reduces Entonox consumption at the point of use, reducing risks to the environment and healthcare staff.
NHS Partners: University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre; Health Innovation Network, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, University of Plymouth.
Rutherford Research Ltd - Revolution-ZERO - awarded £ 99,689: Zero Waste, Zero Carbon, Circular Surgical Textiles.
Revolution-ZERO will develop highly effective and sustainable solutions to replace the disposable PPE, drapes and other textiles that are currently used during the approximately 11,500,000 surgical procedures across the UK. Revolution-Zero will provide specialist re-usable textiles, manufactured and processed to target zero waste and zero carbon emissions.
NHS Partner: West of England AHSN, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust
Green Rewards Limited - Jump - awarded £99,076: A world-first healthcare specific carbon engagement tool.
The Jump project is a green rewards scheme, using engaging interfaces, to motivate staff to make low carbon decisions both lifestyle and work-related.
Jump is already in working with eleven NHS Trusts to encourage individuals to make sustainable lifestyle choices. To date, the platform has recorded 223,190 sustainable actions and saved 410,362 KG of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), which is approximately equal to 2,372 operations.
This project will extend the current platform to include work-related decision-making specific for health care.
NHS Partners : Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, North East and North Cumbria AHSN, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Primum Digital Limited - CrossCover - awarded £99,546: A range of pioneering web applications designed to assist clinicians in making the best low-carbon decisions for every patient encounter.
CrossCover OrthoPathway enables patient-facing clinical staff to build fully interactive patient care flow charts, in line with national guidelines and local needs for musculoskeletal problems. This supports rapid and optimal decisions that are essential to reduce unnecessary follow-up and investigations, reduce re-presentations to Primary and Secondary Care, reduce length of stay in Emergency Departments, and improve patient outcomes.
NHS Partner: Birmingham and Solihull CCG, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Open Medical - ‘Pathpoint SurgiCare’ - awarded £99,556: A cloud-based workflow solution that covers the whole surgical patient pathway.
SurgiCare features a set of patient communication tools with the ability to share information pre and post op, thus reducing the need for the patient to come into the hospital, as a lot of the assessments can be done remotely, whether it's the digital POA, digital consent or anaesthetic prep. This will contribute to cutting the carbon emissions from travel in the NHS, which account for the 10th of all NHS carbon output. Further, the software will calculate the carbon measurements of treatment, showing users the environmental impact of their treatment choices, and offering less harmful alternatives.
NHS Partner: Eastern AHSN
YewMaker - MCF Classifier - awarded £83,370: A user-friendly, evidence-based tool to support low-carbon decision-making in medicines procurement and prescription.
Medicines account for 25% of all NHS emissions. YewMaker will create MCF Classifier – a user-friendly tool that provides information on the carbon footprint of medicines to support low-carbon decision-making in medicines procurement and prescription. The tool will adapt ‘green by design’ metrics (validated by the pharmaceutical sector) integrated with a practical, decision-making framework. It is hoped the solution will drive transparency and yield opportunities to incentivise greener production and empower carbon-informed medicine choices.
NHS Partner: Yorkshire and Humber AHSN, The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust
Apian Limited - Project Angel - awarded £99,967: Using drones to deliver greener, faster and smarter healthcare to patients.
Project Angel will use on-demand, fully-electric drones to deliver greener, faster and smarter healthcare to patients in the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The project is anticipated to influence the supply chain, including new models of collaboration, predictive delivery and carbon footprint reduction.
NHS Partner: Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
TCC-CASEMIX Limited - PredictOR Carbon Analytics - awarded £97,364: Carbon registry to help clinicians and patients reduce carbon emmissions in surgical pathways.
PredictOR Carbon Analytics will create a Carbon Registry to provide clinicians, patients, procurement teams and surgical services managers with access to actionable information on the carbon, energy and waste impact of surgical pathways.
Clinicians and patients will be empowered to make informed, shared decisions on treatment options, with a clear view of the carbon impact of each alternative. This is achieved by overcoming issues with current datasets which have not been collected in consistent, standardised and systematic ways.
NHS Partner: East midlands AHSN
Ufonia - Dora - awarded £98,796: Autonomous telemedicine triage to increase the sustainability of hospital referrals where clinically appropriate.
Dora is an autonomous clinical assistant that can telephone patients as an alternative to hospital visits, where clinically appropriate. This sustainably increases the capacity of clinical services and frees clinicians so patients can be treated sooner. In this project, Dora will be used to call people referred to Head & Neck cancer services, one of the highest demand pathways in the NHS.
NHS Partner: Oxford AHSN, St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Concentric Health - awarded £99,175: Introducing carbon considerations into the shared decision-making process.
A novel exploration and implementation of using carbon data to support patient-clinician conversations.
Concentric is a digital consent application, supporting patients and clinicians to make informed and shared decisions about care. This project explores the feasibility of introducing carbon impact into shared decision-making conversations between patient and clinician.
NHS Partner: Yorkshire and Humber AHSN