‘Dragons’ breathe life into ideas to improve patient care in Dorset

8th March 2022

A crop of creative ideas put forward by NHS staff have been awarded more than £13,000 to help provide extra support for patients in Dorset.

More than 1,300 people voted for their favourite suggestions submitted in Dorset HealthCare’s annual staff innovation competition, Dragons’ Den, and the top five have now earned a cash injection to make them a reality.

The two winning projects will help to tackle crippling social isolation among older residents and support people with memory problems.

And other proposals given funding will address sleep issues among young people, provide an online singing group for patients with communication difficulties and trial a new treatment for knee arthritis.

Dragons’ Den invites staff from across all of the Trust’s community and mental health services to come up with fresh ideas to improve patient care ­– using evidence of likely benefits and showing how such projects could be sustained over a long period.

After online voting helped whittled down a shortlist of ten proposals to five, staff pitched to a panel of ‘dragons’ – as on the BBC-TV show – to secure an investment and bring their ideas to fruition.

 The winners were: 

  • Combat Social Isolation of the Elderly (£4,710) – to help address the chronic loneliness felt by many over-65s in Dorset (often worsened by COVID-19 lockdowns), our Community Mental Health (Older People) Team will trial a weekly group to bring people together. Backed by local community groups, the sessions will feature a range of interactive activities to improve people’s sense of wellbeing, forge new friendships and encourage them to learn new skills
  • Healthy Body and Brain (£3,548) ­– our Memory Assessment Service aims to establish a local support group for people with mild cognitive impairment – declining memory and thought processes which affect one in five over-65s. The group will help people manage their condition and reduce the risk of dementia through advice on nutrition and diet, exercise and good quality sleep, relaxation and the importance of social engagement.

However, the panel was so impressed the presentations it agreed to expand the original £10,000 award pot to fund the other projects, too.

The runners-up were:

  • PRP injection pilot for knee osteoarthritis (£2,000) – our Dorset Musculoskeletal Service will pilot Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections to treat 50 patients suffering significant pain. PRP uses a patient’s own blood cells to help repair diseased or damaged tissue, and could greatly improve a person’s quality of life
  • Sleep Tight, Wake Bright (£1,600) – the funding will provide training for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) staff to become ‘sleep champions’. They will promote ‘sleep hygiene’ plans to help youngsters recharge their energy levels, make better decisions and build stronger relationships
  • Aphasia Choir (£1,560) – Aphasia is an often life-changing condition caused by an acquired brain injury, which affects a person’s ability to communicate. Our adult Speech and Language Therapy Team has been piloting an online choir, which helps people rebuild their confidence through music therapy. The funding will help put the popular sessions on a long-term footing.

Trust Chair Andy Willis said the ‘dragons’ faced their toughest decisions in five years of running the competition, and ultimately decided to fund all five projects.

“The quality of evidence and the level of thought which went into each presentation was phenomenal,” he explained.

“Innovation is going to have to be at the core of everything we do to support patients over the coming years, so it’s great to see people coming forward with such high-quality ideas.

 “I can’t wait to see these projects take shape and make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Andy also confirmed the Trust will investigate the possibility of providing some funding support for the other five proposals which made the top ten shortlist.

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