AHSNs have key role in helping NHS to make the most of innovations, according to new report

Posted on 15 December 2017 (Permalink)

AHSNs have a clear role in helping the NHS to make the most of new innovations, according to a new report from a healthcare industry body. 

While the government has largely accepted the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), crucial issues are yet to be addressed. In response, the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI) commissioned a Nuffield Trust report on the practical steps needed to facilitate the adoption of technology in the NHS

After Nuffield Trust reviewed the literature and undertook two case studies on innovations that have failed to spread, on 13 December it held a seminar to bring together industry experts, AHSNs, NHS procurement departments, clinicians and policy organisations.  The event focused on the implementation of AAR and delegates heard from relevant national organisations as to how they will deliver against the AAR's recommendations. 

The report publishes a series of key reflections, notably:

  • That evidence needs to be generated and applied differently - The way that evidence is perceived varies. There needs to be a willingness to look at different types of evidence and an understanding of how to interpret evidence that hasn’t come from Randomised Controlled Trials
  • It’s unclear whose job it is - A barrier to innovation uptake is the issue around the responsibility of ownership. Until innovation is actively built into job descriptions, it’s unlikely to become business as usual
  • The system gets in the way - While cultural factors are undoubtedly important, barriers imposed by the system are equally challenging. Clinicians are hard-pressed for time, success is measured on short term savings and the tariff does not keep up with new innovations. Long-term transformational projects, funded accordingly, are where real efficiency opportunities are to be found. 

The AAR review suggested a new mandate for AHSNs which supports the local spread of innovation and enables a standard framework for local evaluation, and ABHI's report also fully supports the role of AHSNs in delivering the AAR. The ABHI report proposes that AHSNs should be responsible for supporting effective change management in NHS organisations and help identify areas of unmet need, although there was broad consensus that the new ambitions for AHSNs would be possible only if they are properly resourced.

The report concludes that "supportive bodies such as the AHSNs and Innovation National Networks will play a fundamental role in creating a system where the NHS is allowed to be a receptive market for useful innovations".

Mention is also made of the review conducted by the AHSN Network, which found that while innovative companies in the private sector typically spend two to three times as much on disseminating an innovation than its development, in the NHS it is the reverse. 

Commenting on the adoption of innovation in NHS organisations, Tara Donnelly, Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network, said: “I don’t think it’s necessary for companies to see chief execs directly to get their product adopted. More commonly the support comes from medical directors, clinical directors, chief clinical information officers and operational managers.”

You can read the ABHI report here, or take a look at the Nuffield Trust's blog, which looks at the three key reasons why the NHS has yet to make the most of new innovations. It suggests some practical steps as to how this can be addressed.