Healthcare entrepreneurs dare to enter the den | Denis Gizzi

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Denis Gizzi

To spot the brightest new ideas surfacing in the NHS, Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group signed up to a Dragons’ Den style programme. Managing director, Denis Gizzi, shares its early success and provides a glimpse into the type of innovations that entered the den.

Dragons’ Den is a concept familiar to many: would-be entrepreneurs and innovators pitch their big ideas to a panel of judges to seek support and take their concepts forward. Nobody wants to leave empty-handed. It’s a global success.

At NHS Oldham CCG, we’ve taken this concept and tailored it to work in a CCG setting, with the help of NHS innovation experts TRUSTECH. We’ve used it as a platform to leverage ideas from individuals, and small and medium sized companies, because this group can be a treasure trove of pioneering ideas. Few, however, are able to navigate the obstacles to reach the right NHS decision-makers.

The NHS is notoriously complex for smaller companies to crack, and without the processes to minimise these restrictions, we risk missing some potentially life- and sector-changing products and services. And judging by the response to our initial call for innovations, there is certainly no lack of people eager to showcase their solutions. The range and standard of ideas were phenomenal and covered many different areas across healthcare – no two ideas were identical.

There’s a clear appetite for progress, and there are some original ideas being put forward that could really make a difference to the NHS. At Oldham CCG, we’re very focused on improvement and leading the way as much as possible through early adoption of cutting-edge developments, and this is reflected in the fact that with the help of TRUSTECH, we are the first CCG to successfully follow a Dragons’ Den style initiative.

The programme has created a real buzz, both for the CCG and for everyone who has taken the time to showcase their ideas. While it is a novel way to identify and evaluate new concepts, it is also a process we are fully committed to in every way. We are very aware that the opportunities and progress this could generate are significant.  

Of course we can’t take forward all 86 ideas that were submitted, and some of the entries stood out head and shoulders above the rest. It was these shortlisted candidates who went head-to-head in the den, in a similar fashion to the popular television show. They pitched their cases to our panel of ‘dragons’ who in turn fired questions back to find out more about suitability, cost-effectiveness and potential to improve healthcare across Oldham.

The successful companies will be offered a funded evaluation, each in a relevant patient cohort, and these are about to commence. This part of the process allows us to dig deeper and establish whether the innovations will work in practice. The results of this stage will determine which ideas are then turned into a commissioning reality.

From smart medication that removes the need for injections and patient monitoring solutions, to technology that assists with falls and fracture prevention, the shortlist exhibits significant potential to improve health and patient experience, and value for money.

At Oldham, we’ve spearheaded the Dragons’ Den style programme in a CCG environment, with encouraging results. It is a process that can easily be replicated by other CCGs, and most importantly, one that can help push the entire NHS forward. We see it as key to the future success of clinical commissioning.

Denis Gizzi is the managing director of NHS Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group. Follow him and the CCG on Twitter @DenisGizzi @oldhamccg

You can find out more about Oldham's approach in a new case study.

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