SW pioneers attend academy to transform health and social care

Forward-thinkers across the South West have gone ‘back to school’ for an exclusive lesson in unleashing large-scale change in health and social care.

Over 80 professionals from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, and Somerset attended the Spread Academy – a four-day training programme run by the South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) in partnership with the renowned US-based Billions Institute.

The individuals, including NHS leaders, a dietician, and an ex-rocket engineer, were selected from a competitive application process to take part in the academy, designed to equip leaders in health and care with the skills they need to spread and scale their ideas for change.

The academy’s format is based on the influential US training programme, Skid Row School, founded by the highly successful Billions Institute in Los Angeles, California. Billions Institute co-founders Becky Margiotta and Joe McCannon travelled to the UK to lead last week’s Spread Academy in Exeter, which combined storytelling with collaborative group work to encourage participants to dig deep into their motivations in order to begin the personal transformation they need to create change on a large scale.

SW AHSN Chief Executive, Professor Jonathon Gray, said: “As Spread Academy pioneers, the teams and individuals we have taken on board this week are paving the future of health and social care for patients. By learning and sharing, we are one step closer to achieving ten million additional healthy years of life for residents of the South West by 2035.”

To Professor Gray, the academy is uniquely placed to help innovators break into an industry that is notoriously difficult to enter: “Navigating the health and social care system is hard; innovators need to overcome many barriers to spreading their idea and having it adopted. Our Spread Academy provides them with the tools they need to break into the market.”

During the academy, participants were encouraged to take a close look at their past to understand their present-day motivations for creating change. Somerset-based dietician Marianne Williams found the experience “emotionally exhausting, cognitively challenging, powerfully enlightening, and deeply touching.”

“I’d been warned that I may feel uncomfortably challenged, but digging into my history has made me see more clearly what makes me tick”, Marianne said. “I am a different person to the one that walked through the door four days ago.”

The Spread Academy is part of the SW AHSN’s developing Mayflower Innovation Centre, an upcoming epicentre for global innovation based in Plymouth, and an initiative of the SW AHSN’s Innovation Exchange, an approach commissioned by the Office for Life Sciences to identify, select, and support the adoption of innovations that improve our economy and patients’ lives. All pupils of the academy will now be given nine months’ worth of support to apply what they learnt and spread their ideas.