Innovative healthcare provider patches gap between GPs and hospital

Sentinel Healthcare delivers a new type of service for patients between GPs and hospitals, and hopes to integrate closely with the NHS over the coming years. 

Over the past few years, there have been major changes in the delivery of health services across the country; GP contract negotiations, the removal of some prescription drugs, axing some 18 week waiting time targets, and bigger changes to come, such as simple operations no longer being funded by the NHS and a move away from Clinical Commissioning Groups.

GP owned and operated Sentinel Healthcare is developing an additional sector between the NHS and private healthcare to plug this gap and pull together a currently fragmented system.

Founded in 2007, innovation runs throughout the Plymouth-based company and the services it delivers. Born out of a need for patient care outside of GPs and hospitals, it now provides a national Clinical Assessment Service, as well as multidisciplinary services not found anywhere else in the country. 

While specialist services have existed, Sentinel fills a gap in the market for patients who don't fit within a defined box; often too complicated for GPs but not acute enough for hospitals, the company prevents them from getting stuck in the system. 

Having already won a Medilink innovation award and featured on Plymouth University's GAIN 20, innovate2succeed (i2s) Project Manager Yvette Coles approached Roland Gude, Strategic Director for Sentinel, to offer further support including; reviewing their innovation strategy, barriers to support, the continued development of the business and fostering a culture of innovation.

i2s Med Tech Specialist, Patrick Finnemore, was assigned to review the market position of the company and worked with the team to identify new areas for growth. A specialist within a sector Sentinel wished to explore, Patrick not only identified potential growth, but crucially, gave the company an insight into an area it knew little about. 

Matt Young, Social Media Specialist for i2s, looked at the company's effectiveness on social media - including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube - and highlighted areas that worked well. Matt's specialist knowledge was far beyond what the company possessed and ensured Sentinel's plans dovetailed with existing systems and politics.

Lastly, i2s Access to Funding Expert Kim Howat, explained the role of Innovate UK and available grant funding for SMEs. It was clear Sentinel needed funding for project work and data collection. Kim was able to show Roland relevant grant competitions, tender opportunities and how to write applications, which he would not have been able to do alone.

Speaking about the help received from innovate2succeed, Roland Gude, Strategic Director for Sentinel, said:

"innovate2succeed really helped us at a very critical time. We were launching two new lines, so we incorporated some of those systems to come out of the advice into the services. The opportunity gave us the right push; we could have sat back but innovate2succeed motivated us to drive forward.

"The specialist help was the most valuable. It instilled the confidence that we are doing the right thing and has put us in a position where the company could fundamentally transform the way it does business."

Since receiving help from the innovate2succeed team, Sentinel has entered a tender to provide services for NHS Scotland, which could be a huge shift for the business both geographically and in the services it provides.

But Sentinel has bigger aims to become more integrated with the NHS, dependent on future changes.  

Sentinel has a clear vision for the company's growth and development. Also, in collaboration with a facial recognition photography company, it is developing software used for identifying skin lesions and determining if they are potentially cancerous. 

Innovation should be considered a key component of any business growth strategy, which is why the innovate2succeed programme has been designed to help embrace innovative business practices and increase chances of success. 

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