Child Health Technology Conference 2021 – in conversation with Nat Mills

The UK’s first Child Health Technology Conference, Child Health Technology 2021 (CHT2021) is taking place from 2nd  – 5th March 2021.

Hosted by NIHR Children & Young People MedTech Cooperative (NIHR CYP MedTech), CHT2021 will be bringing together healthcare professionals, industry experts, engineers, designers, academics, and patient representatives to talk about the future of child health innovation. We spoke to Nathaniel Mills Programme Manager for NIHR CYP MedTech and NIHR Devices for Dignity about the conference.

“What do you hope to achieve by hosting the Child Health Conference?”

We want to raise the profile of innovation for children and young people and the need for funders to invest in this space.

There needs to be a wider recognition of children and young people as a population in their own right with their own wants and needs from health and care services.

We talk about children being 20% of our population but 100% of our future. However, poor health in childhood can affect health and wellbeing in later life. Hospital admissions for children and young people with multiple comorbidities and long term conditions have increased significantly in the last decade – increasing costs to healthcare services and having an impact on missed time from education, and social interactions inside and outside of school.

We believe it is important to ensure that all children and young people, including those with health problems and long term conditions, have the best start in life. Cycles of health inequality exist and we are committed to playing a part in breaking these cycles – for the benefit of families, communities and the NHS.

“Why is it being hosted in Sheffield?”

CHT2021 is unique internationally as a conference dedicated to innovation in child health.

Sheffield has been building a reputation as a focus for child health innovation for many years. Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of only three dedicated children’s hospital trusts in the UK and provides integrated healthcare for children and young people, including community and mental health care as well as acute and specialist services – and is the host of NIHR CYP MedTech.

We work closely with the two universities in the city and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – as well as many SMEs and experts in design from across the Sheffield region. This makes the city an ideal place to hold a conference such as this.

These organisations in Sheffield are at the centre of networks being built nationally to advance knowledge, increase patient and family involvement in the co-creation of technology solutions, and enhance collaboration with industry.

This conference is a great opportunity to showcase the work of a range of stakeholders and partners and bring together a community of people who are passionate about collaboration and putting the spotlight on child health – we are a community who want to make things happen.

“How has Sheffield become a catalyst for child health innovation?”

Clinical leaders at Sheffield Children’s Hospital acknowledged a desire and drive to catalyse and develop innovations for child health. By working with Devices for Dignity (D4D) hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, we were able to realise that vision.

D4D act as a catalyst for technology development to support people living with long-term conditions. The D4D methodology starts with understanding the unmet need, leading to meaningful collaborative co-production with technology users. This was very much the starting point for the TITCH (Technology and Innovation Transforming Child Health) Network in 2014 – to gain more understanding of unmet needs and build national networks in order to establish collaborations.

We are very grateful for the support of the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, Innovation Agency and Greater Manchester AHSN in the early days of establishing TITCH – which also led to the opportunity to work with SBRI Healthcare to lead a competition for assistive technology innovations specific to young people’s needs. The NIHR also supported this vision which brings us to where we are today with NIHR CYP MedTech.

With the leadership of Prof Paul Dimitri, NIHR CYP MedTech was established in 2018 with 7 themes involving key opinion leaders who support technology development. We are involved in multiple projects nationally at various stages in the innovation pipeline. The vast majority of these are collaborations between clinical, academia and industry that put children and young people at the centre.

CHT2021 is a celebration of this and all the other incredible work that is happening elsewhere to innovate and develop for child health.

Follow the conference on Twitter with #CHT2021
Find out more about NIHR CYP MedTech at:
And the TITCH network at: