North excellence in active and healthy ageing given international recognition

The NHSA coordinated and gave strategic guidance for successful North bids for ‘Reference Site’ status

14th July 2016

NORTH health organisations have received international recognition for their work on active and healthy ageing.

Experts from across Europe reviewed bids from Greater Manchester, North West Coast, the North East and Yorkshire and Humber to become prestigious ‘Reference Sites’ for the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.

The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) coordinated and gave strategic guidance for the bids, which saw all four sites awarded ‘Reference Site’ status and achieve a three star rating.

This means the four areas have demonstrated an innovative and comprehensive approach to healthy ageing with concrete evidence of the impact of their work on patients’ health.

Dr Hakim Yadi CEO of the NHSA said: “The North’s excellence in healthy and active ageing is second to none with centres of international importance located here.

“This assessment of work by a panel of independent experts demonstrates the excellent research being done across the region in this field, and its effectiveness at putting innovative ideas into practice to make a very real difference to people’s lives.”

The four organisations awarded the status are Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network (GMAHSN), Innovation Agency (North West Coast Academic Health Science Network), Newcastle University and Academic Health Science Network North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC), and Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (Yorkshire & Humber AHSN).

The North East of England site includes a strong emphasis on creating wealth and economic growth from active and healthy ageing innovation.  This has been a key message from Newcastle University’s ageing research environment for a number of years, including its Changing Age for Business ERDF project. It is also a major focus of the AHSNs and reflected in the recent award to Newcastle University of the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation.

Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has developed and implemented an electronic Frailty Index (eFI). This uses information from patients’ electronic health records to enable GPs and primary care clinicians to proactively identify older people who are at risk of developing mild, moderate and severe frailty so appropriate, proactive, goal-orientated care pathways can be devised. It is available in over 2,500 GP practices across England.

Greater Manchester (GM) has established the Greater Manchester Ageing Hub so that GM partners can coordinate a strategic response to the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population. The Hub will ensure that ageing is reflected across all appropriate GM implementation plans, using a place-based approach and bring together existing activities and structures to work collaboratively to design and develop thinking, new ideas and interventions; developing economic opportunities and enabling people to live longer, happier and healthier lives.

The AHSN for the North West coast, the Innovation Agency, is involved in an NHS ‘Test Bed’ in Lancashire and Cumbria, in which the NHS has partnered with companies and social enterprises to support frail elderly people with dementia and other long term conditions, avoiding unnecessary admissions to hospital.  It is also a partner in three other European programmes focussed on supporting healthy ageing through innovative technologies.

The North applications underwent a Pan-European peer review during May and June and a panel of independent experts from the European Commission, the Reference Site Collaborative Network (RSCN), and research and consultancy firm empirica validated review results.

The European Commission defines a Reference Site as, regions, and cities, integrated hospitals/care organisations that implement a comprehensive, innovation-based approach to active and healthy ageing and can give evidence and concrete illustrations of their impact on the ground”.

Assistant Director Healthcare Transformation at Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety John Farrell said: “The Reference Sites in the North of England are among some of the most advanced Reference Sites in Europe.

“Their collaborative approach in engaging health and care providers, government, industry and researchers in the development and adoption of innovative solutions have helped to improve health and care outcomes for patients, and offered new models and approaches that will help transform the way services are delivered.

“This recognition along with the technological and innovative solutions being developed will help to open new commercial markets across Europe and beyond.”

The European Commission is preparing a series of support activities to assist the new Reference Sites by stimulating exchange of experiences, promoting technical training and the transfer of innovative practices, as well as highlighting at European level the work the Reference Sites are delivering. A total of 74 regional and local organisations have been awarded Reference Site status.

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