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Liverpool tech company lands funding for maternity project

A Liverpool digital technology company has landed £96,000 in grant funding to improve health information for new parents from minority groups.

Damibu has developed a digital platform for creating and delivering health information on public-facing NHS websites.

The latest funding, from SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare, was secured with the help of the Innovation Agency and will help the company explore how information can be ‘hyper-localised’ to meet the needs of minority groups.

The project will focus on new parents in the Liverpool City Region to ensure they receive the information they need to fully access health services.

The Damibu Feeds platform was developed during the early stages of the pandemic and delivers information to places where it can be accessed by the public, such as GP websites.

Dave Burrows, founder and CEO of Damibu, said the latest funding would help the five-strong company make information more accessible by exploring differences in language and culture in local areas.

He said: “A large part of the work will focus on engaging with local people so we can better understand cultural and linguistic differences – firstly, to overcome any change in nuance during translation and, secondly, to see if NHS information can be more culturally relevant.

“We’re excited to start working with our partners on this project. The research and technology developed will flow into our work on maternity and early years self-care information, and our work with NHS primary care.

“In 2019 to 2020 the NHS spent £66 million on translation and interpreting services. Our platform will allow this spend to deliver more by targeting factors that lead to inequalities in health information, such as language, culture, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and location.

“Winning a funding competition such as this is a big ‘tick’ from the NHS that encourages us we’re going in the right direction.

“The Innovation Agency played a really important role in helping us get the funding. They reviewed the bid and gave us support all the way through the process. SBRI sets the bar very high, so the Innovation Agency’s help was vital.”

Andy Cairns, the Innovation Agency’s Commercial Manager for the Liverpool City Region, said: “We have a relationship with Damibu going back several years so we’re delighted to have played some part in their latest success.

“Damibu is all about delivering social benefits in an innovative way and this latest piece of work promises to improve services for people from disadvantaged communities.”

While the UK is among one of the safest places to give birth, health inequalities have an impact on maternity care: Black and Asian women are more likely to die during pregnancy, and childbirth and poor pregnancy outcomes disproportionately affect Black and Asian women from the most socio-economically deprived backgrounds.

The new funding aims to accelerate change and use the best of cross-sector collaboration and technical expertise.

SBRI Healthcare is an Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) initiative – a partnership between patient groups, government bodies, industry and the NHS hosted by NHS England – and is delivered in partnership with the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), of which the Innovation Agency is a partner.

Damibu is one of 10 organisations to win a share of £900,000 funding for innovations in maternity care. In consultation with clinicians and other stakeholders working in maternity care, innovations were sought for perinatal mental health, risk identification, stratification, and intervention, and support for women post-discharge.

The competition was open to companies and organisations from the public, private and third sectors. The projects will run for six months to determine whether the innovations are technically feasible.

Matt Whitty, Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences at NHS England and CEO of the Accelerated Access Collaborative, said: “The SBRI Healthcare awards help the NHS to develop new technologies and solutions to address some of the biggest healthcare challenges facing society.

“By supporting the most promising innovations the NHS will continue to evolve, helping meet more patients’ needs and encouraging more innovators to come forward with ideas that make a difference.”

Dave Burrows is an alumnus of the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme, which supports exceptional individuals to scale up innovations to the benefit of patients and staff. He was made a Fellow of the NIA after developing the Catch app, which supports parents and children from pregnancy until age five.

Damibu will be working with several partners to deliver the project. They are: Rachael Dix, a subject expert who supported the Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s Health and Maternity (WHaM) Programme to deliver its health inequalities programme; representatives from NHS Cheshire and Merseyside; Maternity Voices Partnerships from Central Cheshire and from Wirral; the Archdiocese of Liverpool; Professor Asma Khalil from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; the Patient Information Forum; Liverpool City Region Civic Data Cooperative; and the Science and Technology Facilities Council Hartree Centre.