Published on 18 February 2016
A new health partnership is developing that could dramatically improve a range of health issues in the region, including childbirth and dementia, a leading North East health expert has highlighted today.
Work on the ground-breaking health sciences facility at the University of Sunderland, in partnership with City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Trust, could improve healthcare provision across the region.
The key feature of the £5.5m facility, which opens this summer, is the ‘Living Lab’, a unique development which could bring health benefits for potentially thousands of people in the region.
Work on the second phase of a multi-million pound science facility at the University of Sunderland is underway and is expected to improve the quality of healthcare provision across the region, with innovative and improved approaches to patient-centred treatment.
The University is investing £5.5m in Sciences Complex Phase II, which will be completed this summer, supporting growth in STEM graduates and increasing its engagement with life science and healthcare companies, regionally, nationally and internationally.
The central feature of Phase II will be the creation of a Living Lab; a unique, purpose-built, environment using advanced hi-fidelity simulation equipment to deliver integrated working between university researchers, staff, students and healthcare and life sciences partners. Here they will be able to test, monitor and collaborate in new technologies, treatments and services in real world settings, raising the quality of care and improving patient safety.
Living Lab reflects the various settings of care provision and is made up of several specialist laboratories, from a mock hospital ward, pharmacy dispensary and dementia friendly patient’s flat to a hi-fidelity simulation suite and an updated Point of Care Centre, which delivers education and training to those involved in patient care using the latest technology to enhance treatment and diagnosis for patients.
Developed in collaboration with Sunderland’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and working in partnership with City Hospitals Sunderland, the new facilities will provide staff, students and health professionals with the skills to meet the future challenges of health care.
Ann Fox, Director of nursing, quality and safety at the Clinical Commissioning Group commented: "The University of Sunderland already plays a pivotal role in the region’s healthcare and the Living Lab will provide a focus for our collaboration. It will encourage and enable services to work together and improve training in the healthcare sector."
"By helping us test our patient-centred treatment from home, to pharmacy, GP to hospital and back home again the Living Lab will undoubtedly help us to innovate and improve healthcare for people in the region."
Mr Kim Hinshaw, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The multi-million pound investment in the Sciences Complex Phase II offers exciting opportunities for clinical staff and researchers at City Hospitals Sunderland to work closely with the University of Sunderland.
"This will allow closer collaboration in several areas of ‘cutting edge’ research. The new Hi-Technology Simulation Suite will enhance clinical training of our staff. This will directly benefit our Sunderland population, allowing us to offer the highest quality, safe clinical care."
Professor John MacIntyre, Pro Vice-Chancellor, and Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences, added: "We firmly believe that our investment in facilities and research at the University will have a significant impact on our collaborative partnerships with key health providers, and on patients - with the potential to create a raft of new effective working practices. There is no doubt that this type of programme makes us a leading university in the UK in integrated working practices in these areas."
Professor Tony Alabaster, Associate Dean Research and External Engagement & Head of Department Pharmacy, Health and Well-being, said: "The move to patient-centred and precision medicine, integrated and community-based healthcare will have a profound impact on the skills needed within the industry and its supply chain, including the growing life science and ICT sectors, and we want to ensure our graduates are well equipped with the skills to meet those challenges throughout their academic career and beyond.
"The Living Lab has been designed in partnership with local healthcare providers, is dementia friendly and offers new models of care and different ways of working in a safe and creative environment. From the moment a patient becomes unwell at home, or a visit to their pharmacy, to treatment in a hospital ward - enabling interaction between students and patient volunteers with specific health conditions."
He added: "A major tenet of this development is to support a workforce fit for practice, employer led and informed, reinforcing our commitment to graduate employability."
A unique feature of the Living Lab includes undertaking whole city mapping of the patient care pathway and modelling it through the Living Lab. Mapping allows you to adapt the patient journey in order to improve the quality of their care.
Sue Brent, Principal Lecturer/Team Leader Health, explained: "Mapping allows us to see and understand the patient’s experience, by separating the management of a specific condition or treatment into a series of steps - from admission to the A&E department to discharge from the ward, visiting pharmacy etc, this can be viewed as a patient pathway.
"The information provided by this mapping through Living Lab can then be used to redesign the patient pathway to improve quality or efficiency of clinical management and focus care towards activities most valued by the patient."
The Sciences Complex Phase II has been generously supported by a £300,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation and will be delivered in three stages. The first stage, to redevelop the Pharmacy Laboratories, was completed in September 2015. The second stage, the refurbishment of office accommodation, was finished last November.
This month (January 2016) saw work beginning on the final stage, the creation of the Living Lab. This is the second time the Trust have supported the overall development of the Sciences Complex who acknowledge the need to support realistic scenarios to prepare students for the complexities of real world employment.
Kitted out with the most advanced healthcare industry equipment, including specialist simulation equipment, Sciences Complex Phase II offers students hands-on practical experience. The equipment gives them a chance to extend their knowledge and offer them the opportunity to observe the implications of high-risk healthcare interventions and remove the consequences of inappropriate decision making.