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Lord Darzi calls on nurses to innovate

A £220m fund will be made available to encourage innovation within the NHS, Health Minister Lord Darzi announced yesterday (27 April 2009) at London's Science Museum.

England's 10 strategic health authorities (SHAs) will each receive £2m this year and £5m in each of the following four years to support frontline NHS staff in developing innovative ideas.

The cash will be invested directly into a combination of projects on the ground and at regional level. The move is designed to benefit patients directly and increase the quality of the care they receive.

Lord Darzi said: "This announcement is a huge step forward in implementing the recommendations set out last summer in my strategy on the future of the NHS."

He said that while researching the Next Stage Review, he met numerous nurses who said they had a small idea that could make a huge difference.

"NHS staff have told me that accessing the funds to make ideas become reality can be a struggle and as a result, many great ideas never get realised," he said.

"That is why I am delighted to announce that we now have a £220m innovation fund available to get those ideas off the bench and to patient bedsides, day centres or GP surgeries."

Sarah Banham, a nurse practitioner who runs a practice that came third in the country for patient satisfaction, said the innovation fund could inspire practice teams to think about redesigning service pathways.

"This is for anybody who has an idea about doing something differently," she said.

Lord Darzi cited the "major threat" of the swine flu outbreak as an example of challenges to healthcare staff that would require initiative to respond effectively.

He also said that longer life expectancies and an increasingly elderly population would also pose challenges to healthcare, and said that innovative solutions would be needed here.

To highlight this point, Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio and one of this country's top inventors, presented his new invention – a "wind-up" walking stick that emits a light at the top to aid visibility, and also enables users to pick things up off the ground without bending down.

Mr Baylis said that the capacity for invention "is in every one of us", and that the innovation fund would help everyone working in the NHS to come forward and share their ideas.

Department of Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"As a Nurse Partner and Nurse Practitioner in Somerset, I welcome this new potential investment in innovative ideas. However most changes required to enhance services in Primary Care such as Nurse Practitioners carrying out holistic home visits requires little financial investment but keen willing GPs to mentor. The home visiting service has increased both patient and Nurse Practitioner satisfaction. Nurses look at patients needs and problems in a very different way from the traditional medical model. I would like to see some of this money channeled into education. Nurse education is unsatisfactory and inefficient. Why should we keep having to repeat areas of our education to get to the next level? A great example of this is the inability to come away from a Nurse Practitioner degree course, having studied and taken a pharmacology exam, without the nurse prescribing qualification. We need more cohesive education with agreement between the different bodies to streamline our development thus reducing the cost to individual practices and reducing nursing time away from patients where they are needed." - Polly McRae, Somerset

"I do welcome the news re available funds for innovation and will be thinking more about this with colleagues in the next week or two hopefully we can find from previous services identified those that are priority and would be most beneficial for patient care." - V Henry

"Create a general practice mentor network that would allow nurses who are not currently supported by their employer to access suppport to allow progession of their professional development. I am a practice nurse keen to work more independently and innovatively, but my GP employer refuses to
provide his medical mentorship to enable me to do the nurse prescribing. This is also blocking me from being able to compete for higher level jobs in primary care. We need a separate pathway for nurses in primary care to channel their enthusiasm so they can be empowered to provide extra services independently." - Lynne Hayward, Manchester