WMAHSN welcomes major government investment to speed up patient access to innovative medicines and technology

Posted on 14 July 2017 (Permalink)

The government has today announced a major initiative to drive the rapid uptake of health innovation – with a central role for AHSNs.

The announcement, by the Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy of the Office for Life Sciences, confirms that England’s 15 AHSNs will co-ordinate ‘Innovation Exchanges’, enabling innovative new diagnostic tools, treatments and medical technologies to reach patients faster.

Innovation Exchanges were one of the key outcomes of the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), an independent report commissioned by the government and published in 2016. The AAR looked at ways to ensure patients get quicker access to innovative new diagnostic tools, treatments and medical technologies, with the aim of making the UK a world-leader in healthcare innovation.

AHSNs will receive funding for the next three years to co-ordinate the Innovation Exchange process. AHSNs will use their established networks and expertise to:

  • identify priorities and then act as honest brokers across sectors to bring people and organisations together
  • provide the first port of call for information – for example, signposting commercial innovators and matching already proven solutions to challenges faced by local NHS organisations
  • share best practice around health and care organisations, and offer expert advice on how to get transformation and innovation adopted
  • identify opportunities for patients to take part in trials and pilots
  • work with health and commercial partners to test out solutions
  • collaborate as a national network to identify what is working best locally, and then scale it nationally.

Welcoming the announcement, Chair of the AHSN Network, Dr Liz Mear, said: "England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks support the healthcare system to quickly identify and spread new, better and cheaper ways to deliver services for patients and populations - since 2013 our work has benefited six million people, and we have spread more than 200 innovations across the health and care system.

“The Innovation Exchanges will be built on the partnerships AHSNs have built in their local areas, bringing partners together across health, care and industry and will support the supply of products for the Accelerated Access Partnership and build on AHSNs’ existing expertise of supporting industry partners.”

The funding is split into four packages. These are: 

  • £39 million of funding available to the Academic Health Science Networks, enabling them to locally assess the benefits of new technologies and support NHS uptake of those that deliver real benefits to patients according to the local need. 
  •  A £35 million Digital Health Technology Catalyst for innovators – this will match fund the development of digital technologies for use by patients and the NHS. 
  • Up to £6 million over the next three years to support SMEs with innovative medicines and devices to get the evidence they need by testing in the real world, building on existing opportunities such as the Early Access to Medicine Scheme. 
  • A £6 million Pathway Transformation Fund which will help NHS organisations integrate new technologies into everyday practices - this will help overcome more practical obstacles such as training staff on how to use new equipment. 

Dr  Christopher Parker, Managing Director of WMAHSN, said: "ASHNs are a critical delivery partner for bringing the AAR to life, and £39 million of investment is an important first step in pulling industry and the health service together to realise the Review’s ambition. This significant financial commitment demonstrates our ongoing determination to keep the UK at the forefront of the life sciences sector and to address the barriers faced, particularly by SMEs, in entering the market. This overall package will benefit patients, the health system and the wider economy.

"In the West Midlands, our role will be to assess locally the benefits of new technologies and support NHS uptake of those that deliver real benefits to patients, according to need. We will be building on our existing track record of matching products to challenges and directing our networks, services and expertise to assess innovations, and speed up their spread across our region, as well as throughout the  country."