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Healthcare innovators celebrated at regional awards

Hundreds of healthcare professionals gathered to recognise the innovative ideas of frontline staff at the 12th Bright Ideas in Health Awards.

The annual event, held at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead, shines the spotlight on product and service innovation ideas being developed by NHS staff and healthcare SMEs in the North East and North Cumbria.

This year’s ceremony saw a range of pioneering ideas celebrated including a sleep mask which provides non-invasive treatment for diabetic patients with sight problems, a clinic that supports patients suffering chronic fatigue and a specially developed primary care role to support dementia sufferers and their carers.

The winners in the five categories received a cash prize to help progress their ideas as well as ongoing specialist support from organisers NHS Innovations North, a service delivered by RTC North Ltd on behalf of the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC).

A drug-free solution to alleviate the often debilitating symptoms of migraines picked up the first prize in the Innovative Technology or Device category. Developed by Dr Jitka Vanderpol at Cumbria Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, the COOLHEAD pilot trial researched the benefits of intranasal evaporative cooling for the treatment of migraine.

Dr Vanderpol said: “I am delighted to win a Bright Ideas in Health Award 2015. It is great recognition of not just my work and effort, but also the efforts of the whole research team for their support and intellectual and academic contribution to this study.

“The results of our pilot trial are promising, 87% of our trial patients benefited from this treatment and found it superior or equal to the regular pharmacological treatments they have used.”

The CCG Innovation within Primary Care award was given to a project aimed at improving dementia care in General Practice. Led by Sheinaz Stansfield, Practice Manager at Oxford Terrace and Rawling Road Medical Group in Gateshead, the role of Primary Care Navigator was created to help address the complex health and social needs of patients suffering dementia by providing improved navigation through the system.

Sheinaz said: “We weren’t expecting to win at all. The award is a testament to how far the team has come with this project in less than a year. It’s an amazing achievement for us as a small practice.”

County Durham’s PolyPhotonix Ltd picked up the SME Innovation in Healthcare award for its Noctura 400, a sleep mask for diabetic patients with sight complications. The invention provides a non-invasive alternative to current treatments for patients suffering sight problems as a result of their diabetes.

Richard Kirk, Chief Executive at PolyPhotonix said: “PolyPhotonix are delighted to have won the SME Innovation in Healthcare award. The Noctura 400 sleep mask is a revolutionary treatment for patients with Diabetic Retinopathy and we have received a lot of funding to develop this innovation thanks to the NHS. We are thrilled to have received this recognition, which builds credibility with our stakeholders and showcases the achievements of the PolyPhotonix team.”

First place in the Service Improvement category was awarded to Professor Julia Newton at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the Clinics for Research in Themed Assessment (CRESTA) Fatigue Clinic, which was developed with the aim of meeting the needs of all patients with the chronic fatigue.

Professor Newton said: “I am absolutely thrilled that our idea has been recognised with this award. It's a wonderful recognition for all of the team’s hard work and dedication. I am particularly grateful to our team of Health Champions, all of whom are ex-patients, who have been working with the clinical team to ensure that we give patients affected by fatigue the best possible support.”

First place in the Patient and Public Involvement – Making Research Better category, sponsored by the Clinical Research Network: North East and North Cumbria and AHSN NENC, was awarded to The Durham Constipation Service. The service, which has a strong focus on patient involvement, was developed by Professor Yan Yiannakou at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust to provide high quality care to patients with chronic constipation.

Dr Nicola Wesley, Head of NHS Innovations North and Director of Innovation at the AHSN NENC, said: “It has been another fantastic year for the Bright Ideas in Health Awards with scores of people submitting their ideas across a broad range of healthcare areas both within the NHS and in the private sector.

“The awards aim to identify, celebrate and support healthcare innovations being developed here in the North East and North Cumbria. All of the winners and finalists should be proud of their achievements and we hope they will inspire even more people to become pioneers in the healthcare sector in years to come.

“We are looking forward to supporting the winning innovators as they develop their ideas and helping them achieve their ultimate goal of improving the care of patients in the region.”

To find out more about the annual Bright Ideas in Health Awards, which was this year sponsored by the AHSN NENC,NIHR CRN: North East and North Cumbria, Archer IP, RTC North Ltd, Onyx Health and ERDF, visit or email

The full list of winners and runners up in the five categories were as follows:

Service Improvement

1st place: CRESTA Fatigue Clinic - Professor Julia Newton, Honorary Consultant Physician at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Dean of Clinical Medicine & Professor of Ageing and Medicine at Newcastle University.

2nd place: Services for Children and Young People with Type 1 Diabetes - Liz Allan, Telehealth Engagement Lead at NHS England.

Innovative Technology or Device

1st place: Migraine Therapy – Dr Jitka Vanderpol, Consultant Neurologist at Cumbria Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust.

2nd place: Dementia Patients Undergoing X-Ray – Karen Ainsworth, Sister at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

CCG Innovation within Primary Care

1st place: Improving Dementia Care in General Practice - Sheinaz Stansfield, Practice Manager at Oxford Terrace and Rawling Road Medical Group, Gateshead CCG.

2nd place: Community Pulmonary Embolism Support – Dr Rashpal Singh, South Tees CCG.

SME Innovation in Healthcare

1st place: Noctura 400 - Sleep Mask for Diabetic Patients with Sight Complications - Dr Richard Kirk, CEO, PolyPhotonix Ltd, County Durham.

2nd place: Podfo - Custom Made Foot Orthoses - Heather Peacock, Peacocks Medical Group, Newcastle.

Patient and Public Involvement – Making Research Better, sponsored by CRN: North East and North Cumbria and AHSN NENC

1st place: The Durham Constipation Service - Professor Yan Yiannakou, Consultant Neurogastroenterologist and Director of Research & Development, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.

2nd place: Development of a Test for Amblyopia and Strabismus - Dr Kathleen Vancleef, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Newcastle University.


Notes to Editors:

RTC North is an independent company delivering initiatives and providing services to support economic growth. Our consultants excel in the areas of technology transfer, commercialisation, business growth and open innovation and have worked with thousands of local companies since 1989 to create jobs, wealth and a better quality of life for the people of Northern England.

Employing 50 people, the company has offices in Sunderland, Liverpool and Leeds and offers a mix of commercial and subsidised services to support innovative companies and people with great ideas.

NHS Innovations North is the innovation and intellectual property management service available to all NHS Trusts and other healthcare organisations in the North East of England and is delivered by RTC North on behalf of the Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria. NHS Innovations North acts as a broker between industry, academia and the health service to bring NHS employees’ bright ideas to life, turning them into products and services that improve healthcare and generate revenue for both the NHS and its industrial partners. It is one of the eight regional hubs across the NHS in England.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF): The NHS Innovations North Programme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, securing £520,670 investment.  The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs.

The Academic Health Science Network for North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) is committed to improving both the health and economic prosperity of the region though innovation and through dissemination of best practice.

Key aims for the Network over the next five years will be to improve patient care and population health outcomes and to create wealth and stimulate engagement with industry to promote economic growth.

For further information, please contact:

The AHSN NENC has already embarked on a number of programmes of work:

  • Almost £1m invested in partnerships with local SMEs to drive growth
  • Secured an additional £900k ERDF funding to provide support to SMEs
  • Significant investment in University and Trust Technology transfer programmes and an NHS Innovation Scout Scheme
  • Provision of £2m funding for projects designed to disseminate best practice and make a demonstrable impact on health outcomes
  • Secured significant matched funding for investments from partner organisations such as Health Education North East, the NIHR Clinical Research Network, the Strategic Clinical Networks and the Local Area Teams

For further information, please contact:

Kirstie Taylor, AHSN NENC, Room 2.13, Biomedical Research Building, The Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Nuns' Moor Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5PL, Tel: +44 (0) 191 208 1329, E-mail:, web:

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