Prototypes to improve healthcare are celebrated at design challenge

Prototypes to improve healthcare are celebrated at design challenge

Digital technology prototypes designed to improve care for people with multiple sclerosis and people with learning disabilities were celebrated at a recent Yorkshire and Humber challenge.

The Digital Health Design Challenge, which took place at the Digital Media Centre (DMC) in Barnsley, brought together technology innovators, healthcare professionals and patients to co-create new products for the NHS and wider healthcare sector.

The teams tackled a wide selection of patient care challenges identified by local NHS trusts over two ‘hackathon’ days and the whole event aimed to encourage greater collaboration and partnership working to support digital health innovation in the NHS.

The challenge was organised through the Connected Healthcare programme which has been initiated and organised by the DMC, through Barnsley Council’s Enterprising Barnsley business support programme, in partnership with sponsors Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and Tech North.

Winners received prizes designed to help them carry forward their ideas.

Digital design agency HMA worked with frontline staff from Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to devise a new app which could help people with learning disabilities communicate their sometimes complex needs to improve their experience of treatment and care. Their innovation won them a combined business support package from Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and Enterprising Barnsley, to help boost their product development plans.

Gospelware, working with a team from the multiple sclerosis charity and a consultant neurologist and specialist nurse from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, created an app to help people with MS to monitor and manage fatigue issues. Their proposal won them a £5,000 Innovation Voucher from the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH), at the University of Sheffield who judged it the most promising idea linked to their research themes. Their investment, which must be match-funded, comes with support from CATCH to accelerate the idea and get the innovation a step closer to market.

Enterprising Barnsley’s DMC project director Tracey Johnson said: “We are really pleased with the way creative businesses, healthcare professionals and academics have come to the DMC and embraced the Design Challenge.

“The participants have co-created some excellent ideas through this process and we hope to see several of their prototypes further developed as patient care solutions. We particularly look forward to working with the AHSN to help HMA work up a successful business model for their new product.”

The Design Challenge judging panel included Steve Wragg, chair of Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Richard Stubbs, commercial director, Yorkshire & Humber AHSN; Tania Hide, Head of Economic Development, University of Sheffield; Rob Lewis, Head of Health Transformation, R&D Innovation, Reckitt Benckiser; Dr Peter Cudd, President of the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe; and Phil Coffin, Head of Creative Strategy, Appitized Health.

Richard Stubbs, commercial director, Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, said: “The adoption of health innovation and increased use of technology is vital if the NHS is to create services fit for the future.

“It was very encouraging to see the commitment to co-design and partnership working in response to patient care challenges at this event. There is a real drive to resolve these issues as creatively as possible and the Design Challenge participants showed a real energy and passion for delivering high quality patient-centred solutions. We are overdue a digital health revolution in the NHS and events such as this help to bring that vision a little bit closer.”

Steve Wragg, chair of Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Design Challenge was a unique opportunity for our staff to meet digital designers face-to-face and analyse a service delivery challenge together, then come up with the prototype for a digital solution to tackle it. It was a really interesting event and we do feel we have made some good relationships to build on for future innovation too.”

A Connected Healthcare ‘Access to Finance’ event with speakers from funding bodies and business support organisations will be held at the DMC on June 10th. It will consider sources of funding which may be available to develop healthcare solutions and is open to all designers and creative and digital agencies ‘whether or not they have participated in the Design Challenge.

Notes to editor

Attached photographs show presentation at the Yorkshire and Humber Digital Health Challenge at Barnsley Digital Media Centre. More photographs available on request.

For further information about Connected Healthcare, contact Connected Healthcare project manager Dr Ceri Batchelder on 07979 485 595 or at

The Digital Media Centre is a creative and digital business hub and part of a portfolio of business support and accommodation available through Enterprising Barnsley, Barnsley Council’s investment and development team. For further information, contact Tracey Johnson on 01226 720700 or at

Enterprising Barnsley, part of Barnsley Council, assists companies with relocation to the borough; business development; access to finance; business start-up and much more. Its award-winning team provides a practical link between business owners and a wide range of resources and support available to them in Barnsley. It can help businesses access specialist coaching support. It also funds and delivers a range of business events and workshops. Visit

The Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is one of 15 networks established by NHS England to create and harness purposeful partnerships between patients, health services, industry, and academia. It aims to create improvements in health by reducing service variability and improving patient experience; assist in ensuring new innovative products and services that have the potential to transform lives become part of routine clinical practice; and assist in providing economic growth by supporting projects that support the healthcare sector. Contact Philippa Hedley-Takhar at

Tech North is a government-funded initiative delivered through Tech City UK to accelerate the development of the North’s digital economy through the promotion and support of digital entrepreneurship. Working with stakeholders, Tech North aims to address the challenges tech entrepreneurs face in accessing finance, support, mentorship and talent. Tech North champions initiatives that support the development of the North’s digital economy. Contact Laura Bennett at


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