Building a culture of innovation

Innovation Ambassadors, co-funded by Health Innovation East, have championed innovation at Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust.

Status: Completed


Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust (CCS) provides a wide range of services including community, paediatrics, physiotherapy, and sexual health services to over 3 million people in the East of England.

The wide scope of provisions that CCS provides means there is a diverse pool of staff experience, knowledge and understanding of the current needs of patients, the NHS and the region.

Those working in the healthcare sector often have great ideas to solve difficult problems for our community but may not always know how to develop these ideas into working innovations or indeed have the time and resources to do so.

Great ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. It is essential to encourage a culture where staff are empowered to share their ideas, be innovative, and have the resources to progress their ideas to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS.


Innovation ambassadors are embedded in healthcare services to promote and support both a culture that embraces innovation as well as innovative activities from within, supporting the priorities of both their host organisations and the local population. They support the local infrastructure to ensure that systems are innovation-ready and able to adopt new ways of working. They also encourage colleagues to come forward with innovative ideas and challenges to be shared with AHSN Network colleagues. Health Innovation East co-funded the roles of two innovation ambassadors, Shagufta Dalal and Susie Robertson, at CCS to foster and encourage innovation within the Trust.

Beginning as innovation ambassadors in October 2021, Shagufta and Susie have been champions for innovation – they have promoted, explained and encouraged innovation conversations throughout the organisation to empower staff with innovative ideas.

An initial trust-wide survey was conducted to identify the current understanding of innovation within the organisation, any obstacles blocking ideas and to see how the organisation could cultivate a more innovative culture. The ambassadors also ensured they were accessible for staff at all levels within the organisation and held innovation cafes to provide face-to-face sessions for staff to discuss their innovations.

They joined Health Innovation East’s Innovation Review Panel and also undertook training with Health Innovation East to learn how to effectively evaluate the impact of innovations and help them to develop a framework for scoring ideas, which they were able to then take back to CCS.

“Support, guidance and enthusiasm from Health Innovation East has allowed us to develop personally and within the role. It has provided us with the tools and motivation to inspire innovation in others and by attending the innovation review panels we have been able to gain an insight into the process of commercial innovation which we were able to draw on when thinking about innovation in the Trust.” – Shagufta and Susie 



The staff survey has shown the impact of the innovation ambassadors felt throughout CCS. Their work has led to greater motivation and enthusiasm for innovation across the organisation with 70% of staff stating they would share their ideas. 

They have played a crucial role in increasing awareness of the innovation cycle. Staff will now be able to understand each step of the process – from ideation to implementation – with the help from infographics, enabling greater progress of projects to completion and t of a set of criteria created by the organisation to triage, score and prioritise ideas will help the most impactful ideas to be advanced. 

Interactive maps

As part of their role, the ambassadors led a project to embed the use of interactive maps for patients across the Trust. Children, especially those with more complex and lifelong needs, often find it challenging to attend a new setting in an unfamiliar environment.

The use of the interactive maps is in the progress of being piloted at sites across CCS, allowing patients and their carers to familiarise themselves with the environment before their visit, helping to reduce anxiety and uncertainty ahead of their appointment. The project made use of their skills in service transformation and implementation and early feedback has been positive.

The impact of Shagufta and Susie’s work will continue to grow over time as healthcare ideas from CCS develop into implemented projects and begin to further support the needs of the region 

Following the success of the innovation ambassadors in CCS and head of innovation roles in SNEE and BLMK ICSs, Health Innovation East is co-funding and successfully appointed a head of innovation within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough ICB, due to start in summer 2023.

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