SBRI healthcare challenge: How do we improve access to information for relatives of patients?

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and other Health Boards across Wales are looking for innovative solutions to help improve access to information for relatives of patients whilst their loved ones are in hospital and reduce the demand on staff time.

Opportunity Details


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Phase 1: Feasibility; will fund up to 5 projects up to a value of £30,000 each (inclusive of VAT). Phase 2: Development; up to 3 projects from Phase 1, up to a value of £60,000 each (inclusive of VAT). 


NHS Wales

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Challenge background

This challenge is presented by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and other Health Boards across Wales.

When a family member is an inpatient in a hospital setting, it can be a challenging time for relatives who are concerned and want timely information on their loved one’s condition. This is especially the case for urgent admissions or ones where the patient’s diagnosis, condition or prognosis are unclear. Even when patients are admitted electively, families still want to receive updates, but do not always need to speak to someone.

Restrictions to visiting during the pandemic may have eased, but even pre-pandemic, the challenges in getting through to wards and departments by phone calls was, and still is, the biggest dissatisfaction raised by relatives to our Patient Experience Team.

Relatives suffer stress at not knowing what is going on and patients suffer as they worry about their family and whether they know what is required of them, such as discharge arrangements. This situation particularly affects those patients who may not have or be able to use their own phones or who have cognitive limitations such as dementia or mental health needs.

Staff cover great distances to answer telephones, which often ring off, or waste time tracking down someone who can speak about a patient authoritatively, all whilst neglecting their own patients’ care. The removal and replacement of protective clothing and handwashing to answer the phone adds additional burden. Furthermore, due to redeployment, staff are often working with teams they don’t know, making good communication more difficult. Add to that the exhaustion of staff and the result is an environment of inadequate communication.

A survey of nurses working in acute hospitals by the Royal Voluntary Service charity identified that there are two fifths of patients without visitors who require additional support from the nursing team. A lack of visitors was felt by nurses to have a detrimental effect on patients’ health and speed of recovery in a number of ways. These include; they are less likely to be mobile (43%), less likely to be stimulated through conversation (56%) and less likely to follow medical advice. A considerable number, 37%, were more likely to have a longer stay in hospital.

The current system of telephoning is not effective. Relatives can be on hold in some cases for hours before they get an answer and then do not necessarily get any information that is relevant to the patient’s current condition. Reportedly, they don’t always get an answer or have calls returned when they have got through and have been advised that someone else needs to call them back.

Challenge details

We are looking to identify, develop and demonstrate innovative solutions that will:

  • Improve communication between relatives and patient case holder;
  • Reduce worry for patients;
  • Involve patients in updates with family where possible;
  • Reduce frustration and stress of relatives;
  • Improve the carer experience;
  • Reduce detrimental effects of not seeing loved ones and the associated impact of this on the speed of recovery;
  • Improve the patient experience;
  • Better communicate discharge arrangements;
  • Better inform more than a single nominated family member;
  • Reduce demand on clinical time responding to patient update requests;
  • Reduce distraction from patient care leading to lack of dignity and potential errors;
  • Reduce stress on healthcare staff by reducing demand for communication;
  • Maintain privacy and confidentiality through avoidance of patient information being spoken out loud;
  • Provide communication solutions that are accessible and inclusive;
  • Be affordable and sustainable to the NHS and be of low or no cost to the patient/relatives/carers and others that may be involved in the patient’s care: and
  • Meet Welsh Language Standards and potentially have multi-lingual capability.

Out of scope

We are not looking to replace the current telephony systems, although solutions that integrate with or complement the current NHS telephony systems will be considered.


Any organisation can submit an application, although it is expected that opportunities presented by SBRI will be particularly attractive for SMEs. SBRI is aimed at organisations working on the development of an innovative process, material, device, product or service. Successful applications will be those whose technology best addresses the specific needs identified, with the potential to make a measurable improvement to currently available products, processes materials, devices or services. All applicants must demonstrate a route to market.

Challenge phases structure: 

Phase 1: Feasibility – We are looking to fund up to 5 projects up to a value of £30,000 each (inclusive of VAT) for Phase 1.

Phase 2: Development – We expect to fund up to 3 projects from the most successful Phase 1 projects up to a value of £60,000 each (inclusive of VAT).

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possible competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution, although we may choose to investigate and explore innovative procurement routes as part of this challenge.

Register your interest for the virtual Briefing Event to be held on 30 November 2022 from 13:00-15:00.

If you would like help to find a collaboration partner, please contact Innovate UK KTN’s Health team.

For any enquiries about this competition please e-mail:


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