Innovators, health and care stakeholders, cancer patients and their families came together at Eastern AHSN’s latest innovation exchange to find solutions to support early cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Host Bill Turnbull, a former BBC Breakfast presenter who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer 16 months ago, said: “An event like this is hugely important, bringing people together to network and exchange ideas. It’s like growing seeds, if you like. And the information that comes from this, and the progress is hugely important for people like me who are already cancer patients but particularly also for people who may have cancer and haven’t had it diagnosed yet, because the earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome, potentially. And it is a question of life and death, really.”
Bill chaired a panel discussion featuring consultant breast surgeon Liz O’Riordan, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and Jasmin Julia Gupta, founder of the charity Cancer Hair Care, answering questions on a range of cancer-related issues.
Fifteen innovators showcased their solutions to over 120 delegates, which ranged from apps to support the early detection of skin cancers to an AI tool to support the prioritisation of chest x-rays to a novel technique for marking breast lesions before surgery.
During the event, Eastern AHSN asked healthcare specialists, speakers and innovators for their impressions of the opportunities on offer at the innovation exchange.
Matt Keeling, Cancer Manager, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Networking events are really important for us and for me as manager of one of the country’s largest cancer hospitals. It’s where we can find out about the technologies and the innovations of tomorrow. We’ve seen a lot of inspirational speakers already today and some really inspiring ideas. The opening session with Bill Turnbull was great. We saw, just at my hospital a 28 per cent increase in prostate cancer referrals after Bill Turnbull’s announcement last year, so to hear from him and his experience really brought that home and made that meaningful on a human perspective.”
Speaker Jasmin Julia Gupta, of Cancer Hair Care, said: “It’s great when organisations can bring lots of people who are involved in different elements of cancer services and not cancer services together. When you get different opinions around people that work with or have experiences with somebody that you are trying to support, you get fresh ideas. And in my experience, it’s often from having a conversation with someone and going ‘that’s a good idea, let’s do that.”
Innovator Mike Fisher, of Oncimmune, added: “Networking events like this are really key for us because as a small company it’s really hard to find the right person to talk to within such a large organisation as the NHS… These bring the right people together in the room so you can just very quickly go and talk to everybody. Without this, the investment we would need in calling round all the right NHS hospitals to try and promote the tests and the fact that it’s here would be very difficult. It would be impossible for us as a small company.”
Eastern AHSN is now working to build partnerships formed on the day to support innovators with pilots or trial projects in the region. For further information about the innovation exchange, please contact us.
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