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'Sponge on a string' boost for cancer services

A potentially life saving:- 'sponge on a string' test is set to improve cancer diagnosis in Cheshire and Merseyside. The device, known as Cytosponge, will help to identify patients at most risk of oesophageal cancer (cancer of the gullet) and ease pressure on Hospital endoscopy services. Cytosponge has already been used successfully as part of the endoscopy service at:- St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Now it will be available closer to patients' homes at the St Helens and Knowsley Community Diagnostic Centre, thanks to the support of the Innovation Agency. The Innovation Agency is an NHS organisation that supports the adoption and spread of health and care innovations in:- Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and South Cumbria. It helped secure £500,000 from the SBRI Healthcare fund to spread Cytosponge from secondary services into the community.

The Pandemic has exacerbated the demand for endoscopy, a procedure in which a camera attached to a flexible tube is inserted into the patient's body. Cheshire and Merseyside has the highest rate of upper gastrointestinal endoscopies in England:- 47,800 in 2019 to 2020, which is 45% above the national average.

At both St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the level of demand is 1 of the highest within Cheshire and Merseyside. The Cytosponge test aims to divert patients away from secondary care. It is administered in an outpatient setting and involves the patient swallowing a capsule attached to a 'string.' The capsule dissolves in the oesophagus after a few minutes to release a sponge that gathers millions of cells for analysis as it is pulled out. The test will be offered to patients on endoscopy waiting lists. It is minimally invasive and generally more comfortable for patients, needs no sedation and can be delivered in a Nurse led clinic in around 15 minutes. By contrast, an endoscopy requires a team of specialists in secondary care and can take several hours of preparation.

Dr Ash Bassi, Consultant Gastroenterologist, at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals, and co-chair of the Cheshire and Merseyside endoscopy network, said:- "Pressures on endoscopy services have been extreme. This has meant that we need more alternatives to endoscopy. Cytosponge is a new medical test that aims to improve early detection and surveillance of the condition Barrett's oesophagus. It is a quick, safe and accurate test that can be performed in the outpatient setting. It is more comfortable and convenient for patients. This will free up capacity in services like ours to do more endoscopies for patients who need them most. The Cytosponge test is meant for patients who have had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) symptoms for several years. The great strength of the Innovation Agency is that it can identify best practice in an area and then make sure it spreads across the healthcare system."

Mike Kenny, Acting Co-Director of Enterprise and Growth at the Innovation Agency, said:- "Endoscopy services are a priority in our Region and we've focused a lot of energy there. We were able to use our knowledge of the health and care system to make sure this fantastic innovation gained a foothold in primary care where it will have the greatest impact."

Mike Kenny also added that the Innovation Agency helped develop the bid application and ensured consultants and other stakeholders were aware of the opportunity to bring Cytosponge into the community.

Tony Bayliss, aged 80, from Eccleston in St Helens, has been treated at St Helens and Knowsley for more than a decade since he was diagnosed with Barrett's oesophagus, a condition in which the cells in the gullet become abnormal and which means the patient is slightly more likely to develop cancer.

Tony said he was offered the Cytosponge test rather than an endoscopy for his latest check up. Tom said:- "I prefer the sponge because it's much quicker and it's very simple. I was a bit hesitant to start with but it was no bother at all in the end and I'd recommend it to anyone. The camera can make you feel a bit unwell, and I've had a sedative in the past because it's more difficult and some people get a bit panicky. The sponge is much more comfortable."

Cytosponge has been developed by global healthcare technology company Medtronic and Cambridge diagnostics specialists Cyted.

Marcel Gehrung, CEO and co-founder at Cyted, said:- "We are delighted to be expanding the use of the Cytosponge test to community settings with support from the SBRI. This will support the recovery of endoscopy waiting times in 1 of the Regions under most demand across the country, helping patients access potentially life saving cancer treatment sooner and relieving some stress and concern during a difficult time."

SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) Healthcare is an award-winning scheme, offering development funding to innovators and entrepreneurs who have solutions to healthcare problems in the NHS. It is an NHS England and NHS Improvement initiative, supported by England's 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), which includes the Innovation Agency.


Rise of the OAT (Old Age TikToker)

ARE you an OAT? If yes, we would like to hear from you! Please drop our Newsroom an email. Anyway, did you know that 24% of grandparents want to learn how to use TikTok as a way of bonding with their Grandchildren, according to new research from connectivity provider TalkTalk.

The video social media app has exploded in popularity in recent years and now boasts close to 9 million active users in the UK. The majority of those are aged:- 16 to 24, with 46% of Gen Z citing the short form video platform as their favourite social media app. This has sparked the interest of grandparents, who are keen to adopt new technology and become more social media savvy.

Currently, only 7% of UK Grandparents are:- 'OAT's' and active on the platform, even though 35% feel that being on social media helps them relate to younger family members. Understanding the terminology (33%), posting content (32%), account set up (24%) and accessing the app (15%) were cited as the biggest barriers to emerging platforms.

One way to give Grandparents greater access is through their TV. Half of Grandparents said they would watch TikTok videos on their TV with family members if available, while 40% would even consider trying their hand at content creation with their grandchildren if it meant they could watch it together on the big screen.

TalkTalk's newly launched 4K TV Box, powered by Netgem TV, is the perfect solution for grandparents looking to try their hand at TikTok. It is the 2st ISP in Europe to launch the app on the in platform TV service, meaning families can enjoy the latest dance crazes, life hacks and trending videos on the big screen together.

TalkTalk's research also shows that there's a real appetite for more wholesome content online. 70% of Gen Z said that content featuring their grandparents receives higher levels of engagement compared with their usual posts, and 54% enjoy watching social media content featuring grandmas and grandpas.

Luckily, help from the experts is at hand so grandparents can start creating content straight away. TalkTalk has partnered with TikTok sensations Yazzy Chamberlain (@Yazzy_Music) and her 85 year old Grandad and expert OAT, John Tucker, to give grandparents tips on how to make the most of the app with their Grandchildren. The duo went viral in February after videos of them singing together racked up more than 4.4 million views on Yazzy's TikTok account.

Yazzy Chamberlain, singer and TikTok sensation, said:- "Creating content with my Grandad has brought us so much closer together, it's our favourite thing to do. My Grandad doesn't have a smart phone, but loves it when I show him all the lovely messages we receive. TalkTalk's new 4K TV Box will help so many Grandparents watch content online with their Grandchildren."

Yazzy Chamberlain and John Tucker's advice for grandparents looking to try their hand at TikTok:-

"Enjoy watching videos together and see what's trending: Start by watching a range of different videos; whether that's dances, songs, or cooking; to see what passions you both have in common. It's also good to look at what's trending as that means you can recreate those viral videos and put your own spin in it. In our case, it was singing!"

"Be yourself:- Make your videos natural. Granddad and I capture ourselves having fun and creating music, just how we are when we're at home. If you, or your grandparent, feels stressed to make content, just relax, your followers want to see you be yourself."

"Listen to your audience:- We get lots of song requests from our followers. We love to listen to their suggestions, and it gives us loads of ideas for songs to learn and upload."

"Connect with your audience:- The better the connection you have with your followers, the better your experience will be. We love reading all the lovely comments from people, it's 1 of my favourite parts of posting content with Granddad, they all love him."

"Use your TV: Many grandparents, including:- my Granddad, don't have smart phones which means they don't have access to TikTok. TalkTalk's new 4K TV Box now has the TikTok app built into their platform so you can watch content on your big screen."

Lindsey China, Head of TV Partnerships at TalkTalk, said:- "Over the past 2 years, we've seen internet usage among over 65's increase by 69%, demonstrating the appetite for a more digital lifestyle. We hope that the launch of our new 4K TV Box will support new and existing customers, young and old, access the internet and stay connected with their family and friends. By following Yazzy and John's top tips, we hope our customers can enjoy watching, or creating, all the best content together."


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