Innovation in health and social care: social and historical
Innovation in health and social care: social and historical

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Innovation in health and social care: social and historical

4 A history of innovation in the NHS

Innovation can be incremental, that is to say it builds on existing ideas or practice, or it can be revolutionary and ground-breaking, but ultimately its widespread use has led to millions of lives being saved (Gerry and Wyatt, 2011). The next activity invites you to explore a timeline of innovation within the NHS in the United Kingdom and to identify key changes that led to the improvements in the healthcare of the nation.

Activity 3 A journey of innovation through time

Watch the following video about innovations in health care.

Please note: this video dates from 2009 and, due to its age, has noticeably poorer picture quality than videos uploaded today.

Skip transcript: Video 2 A history of health innovation

Transcript: Video 2 A history of health innovation

ON SCREEN: “a history of healthcare innovation”

ON SCREEN: “1867: carbolic acid used to sterilise surgical instruments”

ON SCREEN: “1896: Almoth Wright invents anti-typhoid vaccine”

--a huge history of major inventions.

ON SCREEN: “1928: Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin”

Miracle out of mould when a brilliant doctor, Professor Alexander Fleming, discovered that it produces the drug known as penicillin.

ON SCREEN: “1948: NHS is founded, unveiled by Aneurin “Nye” Bevan”

We have a tremendous heritage.
--then proposes a comprehensive health service, securing medical treatment of all kinds for all citizens.

ON SCREEN: “1953: Watson and Crick discover DNA is a double helix”

ON SCREEN: “1956: Colin Murdoch invents disposable syringes”

--as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the NHS, I could highlight at least two or three major discoveries every decade.

ON SCREEN: “1965: Frank Pantridge invents portable defibrillator”

ON SCREEN: “1973: Godfrey Houndsfield invents CAT scanner”

ON SCREEN: “1989: umbilical-cord blood used to repair damage from chemotherapy”

ON SCREEN: “2000: The Sanger Centre produces a draft of the human genome”

ON SCREEN: “2003: Peter Mansfield wins Nobel Prize for the MRI scanner”

ON SCREEN: “2007: Imperial College grow a heart valve from stem cells”

ON SCREEN: “2009: Innovation for a healthier future”

ON SCREEN: “2020: miniaturised haemo dialysis equipment in universal use?”

ON SCREEN: “2030: reversal of brain pathology for dementia?”

There are many innovations. Innovations in wellbeing. How do we prevent patients getting ill? Innovations in diagnosis. Innovations in treatments. Robotics is one good example. We're moving into what we call surgery without incisions in the future.

ON SCREEN: “2040: cure for obesity?”

ON SCREEN: “In 1948 a cataract operation immobilised a patient for a week. Now it’s over in 20 minutes and most go home the same day.”

British inventors are very creative in terms of making or inventing the technology. The vision sees through how do we actually turn technology into improved clinical practice.

ON SCREEN: “In 1958, hip operations were so rare patients had to return them post-mortem.”

ON SCREEN: “The first UK heart transplant patient survived 46 days.”

This is a piece of equipment that allows us to rehearse a surgical mission prior to doing it.

ON SCREEN: “Transplants are now routine and at least two dozen could be done in the same period.”

We performed the first patient procedure rehearsal carotid artery stenting last week.

ON SCREEN: “The world waited until 1978 for the first test tube baby.”

The future is about improving outcomes, minimising patient risk by simulation in a way that has been demonstrated in the airline industry.

ON SCREEN: “6000 test tube babies are now born here annually.”

Innovation isn't just about kit and drugs. It's about looking at the whole health care pathway. How do we tailor care around the needs of the patients? That's innovation.

ON SCREEN: “The breast screening programme introduced in 1988 now saves the lives of 1400 women a year.”

I was really excited about the opportunity to come to work in a paediatric short stay unit because it was a new way of developing patient care and new streamlined approach for patients.

ON SCREEN: “No-one now waiting more than 18 weeks for referrals to treatment.”

ON SCREEN: “9000 fewer deaths from cancer.”

Birmingham Own Health provides telephone-based care to people with long term conditions.
We build up a relationship with our members by making regular contact with them over the telephone. It's the first type within the UK of care management over the telephone.
Children, when they are here, and their families, will not just be passive recipients of care. When they leave and go home they go home as expert patients who are able much better to look after their own condition, know where to seek help, and therefore much less dependent on hospital care in the future.

ON SCREEN: “One of the highest percentages of women being screened for cervical cancer worldwide.”

Innovation isn't just for the doctors and nurses. Innovation is for everyone who works in the health care system. There are pockets of excellence that we should all be very proud of. How do we really diffuse that innovation? How do we copy it from one area and transplant it into another area? We need the front line staff, the 1.3 million people who work in the NHS, to have access to that evidence base.

ON SCREEN: “33,000 fewer deaths from cardiovascular in people under 75 in 2007 compared with 1997.”

It's innovation in management. How do we stop doing things that there isn't the evidence base supporting them? Innovation should be very much part of our culture.
Be imaginative, be brave, be bold, be prepared to take a risk, and you'll get the rewards.
End transcript: Video 2 A history of health innovation
Video 2 A history of health innovation
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Next, use the drag and drop activity underneath to match seven innovations with the year of their discoveries.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Carbolic acid used to sterilise surgical equipment

  2. Almoth Wright invents anti-typhoid vaccine

  3. NHS formed by Aneurin Bevan to provide free medical treatment for all the population

  4. Franklin, Watson and Crick discover DNA is a double helix

  5. Umbilical cord blood is harnessed to repair damage caused by chemotherapy

  6. The Sanger Centre produces the human genome

  7. Imperial College grows a heart valve from stem cells

  • a.1989

  • b.1867

  • c.2007

  • d.1948

  • e.2000

  • f.1953

  • g.1896

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = b
  • 2 = g
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = f
  • 5 = a
  • 6 = e
  • 7 = c

Finally, in the text box that follows, identify five ways in which the UK population’s health has improved.

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Was there anything that surprised you in the video? You may have been slightly alarmed that hip operations were once considered so rare that the artificial hips had to be returned after a patient’s death. This may have caused some distress to families given that a deceased relative would have had to be operated on to remove the replacement. Now of course though, hip replacements are common.

So far, this section has focused on pioneering discovery in healthcare. In the next section, attention is given to change and innovation and whether it is always a good thing.


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