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In today’s NHS Reset-themed blog Sir Andrew Cash OBE (Chief Executive System Lead for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System) and Aejaz Zahid (Innovation Hub Director) share their reflections on how South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw’s new Innovation Hub has been able to contribute to the COVID response and help connect the partnership to industry innovators.

‘The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.’
– Peter Drucker

Established just a year ago, the Innovation Hub is a pioneering partnership between the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and the South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw Integrated Care System (ICS). The core function of this unique ICS workstream is to be a focal point where health and care partner organisations can share and articulate unmet needs, while creating a platform where AHSN resources can be leveraged in the most effective ways, co-creating innovative solutions to system wide challenges. Because it is embedded within the ICS, the Innovation Hub has been able to develop strong working relationships with system workstream leads, partner organisations, regional research and academic institutions and others, while building excellent ties with emerging healthcare innovators via the AHSN.

The year began with a number of Innovation Hub led exemplar projects getting off the ground and starting to make an impact in the areas of Cardio Vascular Disease, Urgent and Emergency Care and Workforce. With a strong ambition to foster a better culture of innovation across ICS partners and to develop a pipeline of innovation exemplar projects moving forward, the Innovation Hub had also established a network of innovation ambassadors and was planning a quarterly series of Innovation Lab forums designed to cultivate collaboration and build greater system wide innovation capabilities. When the pandemic took hold however, many of these activities needed to be paused to address the challenges at hand as the ICS emerged in a leading role to help facilitate and support some of the urgent transformation and change management that was the need of the hour.

Although many of the Innovation Hub’s core activities were halted for the time being, the Hub team found itself to be in a perfect position to monitor and observe where needs were emerging, how innovative changes in response to challenges presented by the pandemic were being implemented and where additional support could be best targeted. For example, during the early stages of the pandemic when gaps in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply were becoming critical in some sectors, relationships established with engineering labs at the University of Sheffield, a number of local businesses, hospital based clinical engineering facilities and the procurement leads in the ICS, enabled the Hub to facilitate a network through which PPE designs, materials and supply could be quickly shared to plug some gaps in demand, especially in the care homes sector.

Furthermore, as it was becoming increasingly clear that unprecedent levels of innovative changes were rapidly taking place and tremendous learnings were becoming apparent which needed to be shared more widely, an opportunity to assess the sustainability (beyond the pandemic) of the most beneficial changes presented itself. The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN took the lead across the north east to develop a framework for rapidly capturing insights and evaluating the impact of the changes and innovations being adopted across the four ICSs in the North East and Yorkshire region. The Innovation Hub proved to be instrumental in ensuring that the South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw story was fully represented in contributing to this important work, bringing together key staff from across the ICS, facilitating workshops, designing surveys and conducting interviews along with the wider AHSN team.

As we look to recovery, learnings captured during this time around enablers for innovation, the relationships established at a local, regional and national level and the improved avenues for the sharing of best practice and collaboration being shaped by the Innovation Hub will be key to supporting innovation driven transformation in the months and years ahead.

We would like to thank all of those who have been involved in this important work for contributing their energy, passion and expertise.