Support and permission to innovate at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust

Page last updated: 12 May 2022
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Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) is a rural hospital provider that recently came out of special measures. The provider places a high value on innovation as an important way to improve the quality of care it delivers.


Two innovation leaders at the RCHT support the staff to develop, deliver and adopt innovations These are senior colleagues who have taken on responsibilities around innovation as part of their jobs. The trust has adopted an innovation strategy and has an intellectual property policy which is mirrored across acute trusts in the South West.

The innovation leaders coach and support colleagues who are developing or implementing innovations and signpost them to other sources of support. They are part of a wider innovation network across the south west region and work with colleagues in other organisations to support innovators to evaluate their ideas. The innovation leaders are visible to their colleagues and publicise what they do through social media groups and regular innovation clubs.

One important role that the innovation leaders play is to provide colleagues with assurance that they have permission to innovate. They do this by working closely with innovators to build trusting relationships and acting as a bridge between innovators and senior leaders. They have strong links to Board members and the chief executive, so they can credibly speak on behalf of the organisation – and they have involved senior leaders, such as the chief nurse, in innovation club meetings.

RCHT facilitates governance through existing care group structures. The trust has chosen this approach over more formal innovation governance mechanisms such as an innovation panel that would approve projects. They believe their approach avoids stifling innovation by requiring too much evidence or too burdensome a process before innovators can access funding and support, while maintaining patient safety.


The innovation leaders at RCHT have supported their colleagues to develop and implement innovations that have improved the care that people receive at RCHT. For example, a consultant in the fracture clinic wanted to make patient information more accessible, having seen paper leaflets left in the department and thrown into bins.

Innovation leaders supported him to work within his care group to develop a QR code which links to an electronic copy of the patient information leaflet, supplemented with patient support videos (purchased using charitable funds). The code is printed on adhesive labels and fixed to casts before patients leave the department. This innovation has improved patient experience and satisfaction as well as reducing the number of enquiries about cast care and reducing waste.

Another example, which focused on patient information, is the My Sunrise app. This was developed by a consultant oncologist for people undergoing treatment for cancer. The app uses video to familiarise people with RCHT’s cancer facilities and contains links to other resources that can support patients to manage their care. This app has been adopted by the South West Cancer Alliance, which is rolling out geographically bespoke versions, and now generates an income for the innovator and the trust.

RCHT was identified by NHS England and Improvement as one of the most effective organisations at adopting four nationally-endorsed innovations.

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