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Scale-Up member Brain in Hand to Revolutionise Support Services for Thousands of Autistic People in UK

Scale-Up member Brain in Hand to Revolutionise Support Services for Thousands of Autistic People in UK

UK digital healthcare company, Brain in Hand, has won a prestigious Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Healthcare award. Funded by NHS England & NHS Improvement, the £800K award recognises Brain in Hand’s revolutionary digital self-management approach to support services for autistic people, both pre-and post-diagnosis.

Brain in Hand’s unique combination of digital and human-based support aims to transform the model of care for autistic people by championing user-led self-management and provide greater independence. This grant shows confidence in Brain in Hand’s approach as an effective solution in meeting critical needs in autism services, a key focus in the NHS Long Term plan and health and social care strategy to provide sustainable and cost-effective service solutions, digital-led support services, and improve care and self-management.

Failing to support Autistic people costs the UK £32bn a year, 71% of autistic adults don’t get the support they need. With over 700,000 autistic people in the UK and 9-month waiting lists, there could be over 30,000 new referrals for diagnosis in the first three quarters of 2021 alone. It is essential to improve the effectiveness of existing services and provide integrated and accessible solutions for pre-and post-diagnosis.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the unmet needs, having a negative impact on the ability to access support services, leaving many stranded or relying on families for support.

Following a first-phase feasibility fund awarded in 2019, this phase two SBRI funding will help to increase access to Brain in Hand’s self-directed support services to meet the needs of the community. It will help to advance the product’s capabilities and fund clinical and health economic impact research, enabling Brain in Hand to demonstrate the system’s effectiveness in meeting these critical needs and support potential adoption across NHS pathways.

Brain in Hand received support from SETsquared’s Scale-Up Programme in order to craft the bid, in the form of a professional bid writing resource to ensure that it was as impactful and thorough as it could be – ultimately resulting in a successful award.

This is even more critical when physical resources are dramatically restricted. Therefore, a digital, always-on self-management support service like this can play an important role in health and social care pathways. It has already proven cost efficiencies for service providers, with an average direct cost saving of £2,800 per user.

Dr Louise Morpeth, CEO of Brain in Hand states: “We are over the moon to be SBRI grantees and to have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of our unique system, which provides a 24/7 dedicated digital support system for autistic people. We are grateful to our partners for joining us on this exciting project and especially pleased to be waving the flag for the south west! The pandemic has shown that it is time to embrace the potential of technology to support those who are so often excluded or overlooked. We look forward to seeing digital health solutions take their proper place in the continuum of care.”

Co-creation to advance Brain in Hand

The company works closely with its user community and product evolution is a direct response to first-hand user experience. The SBRI award will be used to further advance the product’s capabilities and test it with autistic adults. This will not only directly help improve the lives of those who participate, but their feedback will ensure that changes are made to benefit more users in the future.

Connor Ward, autistic advocate and influencer, and independent advisor to Brain in Hand for the SBRI application explains: “I wanted to support Brain in Hand as it has huge potential. With this funding, it will become a proactive customisable support system that people will be able to access from the start when they need it. Technology has played a massive part in offering autistic people greater independence and Brain in Hand’s unique and personalised approach will help users in their moments of stress and uncertainty. The autism spectrum is so wide that no one tool will be able to help everyone, however, this service will develop and grow with each user, which is truly revolutionary.”

As part of the award, Brain in Hand is working with Dr Rohit Shankar MBE, who will lead the study with the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and University of Exeter into the system’s functionality, testing the second-generation version with 100 autistic UK adults.

Dr Rohit Shankar MBE, FRCPsych, Consultant in Adult Developmental Neuropsychiatry (CFT) and Hon. Associate Clinical Professor, University of Exeter Medical School, says: “We owe autistic people the necessary tools and support to ensure they gain and maintain independence and to improve their quality of life in the challenging world we live in. The financial costs and lack of resource to support autistic people are significant and interventions that will aim to reduce this is extremely valuable. I believe that Brain in Hand is a potential solution. I am extremely pleased to be involved in leading the assessments and further development of the product, its technology, and testing implementation into the wider society and NHS over the next 12 months.”

Dr Shankar continues: “We face many challenges with mental health services in the NHS and must provide different types of access and support, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, where services are reduced and access is limited, compounding the difficulties that these individuals face. Autistic people due to their neurodiversity have a higher incidence and prevalence of mental health concerns. Therefore, there is even more urgency to provide an effective, technologically advanced, and cost-effective solution that can be quickly implemented, like Brain in Hand.”

For further information about Brain in Hand and the opportunities to support autistic people please visit

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