CW Innovation Blog Series: Tom Carlisle

The CW Innovation programme is jointly led by CW+ and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. It paves the way for new ideas – and new ways of using existing ideas – that will improve patient care, patient experience and the way the Trust’s hospitals and clinics are run.

Tom Carlisle, Digital Innovation Fellow, works to identify digital innovations to support patients and the delivery of healthcare services at the Trust. Here, Tom talks about the Horizon Fellowship programme.

What is the Horizon Fellowship programme?

It’s a one-year course, led by CW Innovation, that supports staff to run their own innovation projects. It’s spread over six learning days that follow the life cycle of a project, from clarifying the problem to delivering and sustaining a solution. It’s delivered in partnership with DigitalHealth.London, which enables us to draw on expertise from within the Trust and the wider health innovation sector to offer insight and know-how to our Fellows.

Who can apply?

Any staff member can apply to the programme – it’s open to all job roles and grades. To qualify, you just need to be interested in health innovation and improving services in your area. We ask people to apply with a specific innovation project idea that they can lead on and apply the learning from the Fellowship to throughout the year.

How does the programme help Trust staff?

Fellows have told us that one of the biggest benefits of the programme is the support they get from each other, and from discovering other people in the Trust who think like them and want to make things better. It can feel lonely trying to change how things are done, and there can be hurdles to overcome when trying to deliver an innovation project. The Horizon Fellowship learning days give staff the tools and knowledge they might need, but it’s the support and encouragement they give each other that make it a ‘Fellowship’.

How does it help patients?

There are 15 to 20 Fellows in each cohort of the Fellowship. That’s 15 to 20 projects each year that have the potential to improve clinical outcomes, staff wellbeing, or how our services are run. Not all projects go on to be delivered, and some need more than a year to get off the ground and deliver benefits.

Over the two cohorts so far, thousands of patients have benefited from the innovations that our Fellows have introduced. Examples include the introduction of virtual wards across a number of specialties so patients can be monitored at home instead of having to come into hospital, apps to support self-management and recovery, and several projects focusing on early warning and prevention of disease or deterioration.

We’ve also had several projects that focus on developing regional and national guidelines – it gets difficult to estimate patient impact in those cases, but it’s fair to say it’s been big!

Please give an example of a particularly impactful past project.

There are a lot to pick from! There’s a great example of how joining the Fellowship resulted in the project taking off in a different direction than originally planned. Jess is a Senior Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) at the Trust and was a Horizon Fellow in 2022/23. She had the idea of making ODPs – allied health care professionals whose work is imperative to the safe undertaking of surgery and general anaesthesia – a permanent part of the resuscitation team. This is because resus teams that include ODPs have been found to have better patient safety than those without.

During the Fellowship, Jess realised that she would need to influence resuscitation policy to bring about change, which she did, inspired by her Fellowship mentor. This led Jess to take her campaign to the top of the Trust, and eventually to Parliament, where she attended a round table event to discuss the role of allied health professionals and inspire high-level change.

Jess’s work is a great reminder that innovation doesn’t have to be tech-driven – it’s also about new ways of thinking, and doing things that bring about positive, sustainable change.

Tell us a bit about the current cohort – are there any projects that have particularly caught your imagination?

The current cohort of Fellows have been fantastic to work with and I’d struggle to single any one project out. They range from a new app for women to manage their pregnancy to the introduction of new sexual health guidance for young people with cystic fibrosis. It’s been fantastic to see so many ideas come to fruition.

What do you enjoy about being involved in the programme?

I enjoy seeing the confidence of the Fellows grow throughout the year – that’s really what it’s all about. On a personal level, I love getting to know different areas of the hospital better through the Fellows and their projects.

Are you looking for any particular divisions/Trust staff members to come forward?

Not particularly – I’d encourage any Trust staff member who is interested and wondering whether this is for them to get in touch. My team and I are happy to talk over project ideas, getting buy-in from managers and answering any questions people may have.

When will the new cohort be announced?

The deadline for applications is 4 August. The new cohort will be announced by 23 August, in time for the first learning day on 3 October. Staff members who would like to share their innovative project ideas can download the application form or email horizon@cwplus.org.uk for more information.