17 July 2018 - Innovation within the NHS

Innovation within the NHS

After celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS earlier this month, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust gave its members an insight into some of the innovative work that’s taken place in Southampton in recent years.

Suzanne Cunningham, director of midwifery services, began the evening with a behind the scenes look at Channel 4’s One Born Every Minute, which filmed its first two series at the Princess Anne Hospital. The programme was groundbreaking, with 40 fixed cameras set up in the maternity ward to show viewers the reality of childbirth. This was an important part of the team’s decision to take part in the programme – Suzanne said that they wanted to show that birth wasn’t really like it’s portrayed on soap operas. She praised the programme for focusing on the families’ stories, giving viewers the opportunity to follow their journeys to welcoming their babies.

Suzanne talked about what it was like for the midwives featured in the programme, recounting the viewing party the team had when the first episode aired in 2010. Although they had seen parts of the episode, they hadn’t seen the whole thing; Suzanne said: “We were nervous and excited ... it is a bit like giving birth.” The programme was extremely popular and highly acclaimed, with series one winning a BAFTA in 2010 for best factual series.

The second speaker was Mr Doug Dunlop, consultant orthopaedic surgeon. He began his presentation with an overview of the history of hip replacement surgery, explaining how the focus of hip replacement research has shifted from mechanical solutions such as metal implants to biological techniques using stem cells. Research to improve hip replacements is vital, as 14% of people in the UK will need a hip replacement at some point in their lives.

In 2014, Doug performed the UK’s first hip replacement operation using a 3D printed hip joint. In his presentation, he explained how stem cells were taken from the patient’s pelvis and then used to hold the implant in place by allowing new bone formation. He also talked about stem cell research at UHS and the University of Southampton, revealing that stem cells grown in Southampton have been used in research on the International Space Station!

The evening was concluded with a talk from Nicky Matthews, a specialist organ donation nurse. Nicky gave an overview of how transplant surgery has developed, beginning with the first successful organ transplants in the 1960s. Recent innovations have transformed the process of organ transplantation. Donated hearts were traditionally transported in an icebox, giving only a four-hour time window to implant the heart into the recipient. There are now machines that can simulate body conditions, allowing more time before the transplant surgery needs to take place.

Nicky went on to explain how the Department of Health’s work to establish a UK-wide organ donation service and put an organ donation specialist nurse in every acute hospital trust has led to a steady increase in the number of donors in the last ten years. In 2017 alone, 111 people’s lives were saved by organ donations at UHS, with the organs coming from 36 donors. Nicky’s role includes training on how to have difficult conversations with bereaved families about organ donation, and she stressed how much more straightforward this is if the deceased person has already told their family whether they would like to donate their organs. Nicky said: “If you haven’t made your wishes clear to your family, please do!”

Members’ evenings at UHS are free to attend and everyone is welcome. If you’re a member of the Trust, you’ll hear about upcoming events and have the chance to sign up. Find out more about becoming a member here.