Smart Solutions winners chosen by North West NHS Innovation Service

21 November 2011

Medical experts in Liverpool, Tameside and Warrington are to play a key role in testing three new medical devices chosen as winners of the Smart Solutions for Healthcare competition. The products are expected to help the NHS improve the diagnosis and care of patients with long-term conditions such a heart disease and diabetes.

Hospitals and GP practices will be at the forefront of testing a new screening system which can detect people at risk of heart disease from a photograph of their eye and devices to check for blocked leg arteries and nerve damage in diabetics. These three products were winners of the NHS Smart Solutions for Healthcare competition to find new ways to combat long-term conditions.

A partnership between the Fearnhead Cross Medical Centre and Specsavers in Warrington will assess the iGrading CVD software, created by Liverpool company Medalytix. The product offers a new way to assess people’s risk of heart disease or stroke based on a simple photograph of the patient’s retina, which then undergoes computer analysis. It does not require specialist staff and could even be carried out as part of a routine eye test. Medalytix suggests it could cut the cost of the government screening programme for over-40s by up to 35 per cent.

Maggie Bowen, practice manager at Fearnhead Cross Medical Centre, is working closely with Andrea Eaton, practice director at Specsavers in Warrington, to recruit patients and run the trial.

“Eye tests have been able to detect all sorts of medical conditions, from diabetes to high blood pressure, for decades and this new technology will enable us to do even more," said Andrea Eaton.

“We already use a fundus camera in a standard eye test which can identify underlying health conditions. What makes the trial so interesting is that with the new software, scientists will be able to learn so much more about the circulatory systems of the people involved in the trial.

”It’s very exciting for ourselves and the Warrington community to have the chance to take part in this research, which could have massive implications for the future by saving the NHS millions of pounds.“

A team at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, led by consultant vascular surgeon Mr Rao Vallabhaneni, will be evaluating the Padd device. Developed by Dialog Devices in Loughborough, it detects blocked arteries in the leg by using infra-red light to assess blood volume changes in the foot before and after moving the leg. Currently patients must be referred to hospital for diagnosis. Padd offers a rapid and simple way to detect and monitor the condition in a doctor’s surgery or clinic.

Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and investigator Dr Edward Jude, a consultant diabetologist and Reader in Medicine at The University of Manchester, will evaluate the VibraTip device from McCallan Medical of Nottingham. It uses vibration to test for nerve damage in the feet, a common problem for people with diabetes and one which can lead to ulcers. Unlike tuning forks, which are currently used, the VibraTip provides a consistent source of vibration so results are more reliable. The device, which is the size of a key fob and costs around £6, is small and inexpensive enough for nurses, doctors or podiatrists to keep in their pocket.

The Smart Solutions for Healthcare competition is run by TRUSTECH, the North West NHS Innovation Service which is based in Manchester. The winning products were selected by a panel of medical experts from over 50 entries received from around the world. The TRUSTECH project team, led by Dr Bryan Griffiths, is currently setting up the evaluations, with the Padd device being the first trial to begin next month.

“The NHS faces significant challenges in providing high quality healthcare over the coming years, particularly to patients with long term conditions," said Bryan Griffiths. "Smart Solutions for Healthcare has identified some of the potential solutions which are available, and we’re very grateful to the hospital and GP practice teams who are now working with us to put them to the test.

“All three products provide rapid and simple ways to diagnose long-term conditions within the community, instead of having to refer patients to hospital. Not only do they provide significant savings on the initial testing costs, but allowing earlier diagnosis gives scope for more effective treatment and prevention. This in turn ensures better outcomes for patients and savings on longer-term care.”

Smart Solutions for Healthcare is supported by NHS North West, NESTA, Northwest Development Agency (NWDA), England's Northwest, Manchester City Council, Manchester: Knowledge Capital, and New Economy through the Innovation Investment Fund Partnership.


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