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01.08.18

AHSNs: innovating the NHS

Source: NHE July/August 2018

Professor Mike Hannay, chair of the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and managing director of the East Midlands AHSN, talks about innovation in the NHS and the role of his organisation.

This year is a major milestone for our nation with the 70th anniversary of the NHS. As we look ahead to the next 70 years, it’s also a milestone for the AHSNs as we have been relicensed to operate as the innovation arm of the NHS.

In our first five years from 2013 to 2018, England’s 15 AHSNs have registered some fantastic impacts for our health and care systems. Over six million patients benefitted from our work, and we introduced over 330 health innovations across 11,000 locations.

Key to these impacts has been developing strong partnerships. At a national level, we work strategically with NHS England, NHS Improvement (NHSI), NHS Digital, the government’s Office for Life Sciences, and many more to ensure innovation and technology are at the heart of the healthcare and life sciences agenda.

Regionally, every AHSN plays a pivotal role in bringing together the NHS, social care, academic, industry and voluntary sectors. No one is better placed to understand the ‘push and pull’ of demand on innovation.

Our abilities to respond to local health challenges whilst collaborating as a national AHSN Network mean we are well-placed to take what works best and spread it quickly across large geographies. One great example is our programme to detect undiagnosed atrial fibrillation, which is responsible for one in five strokes in England. By working across the country, we aim to prevent 4,000 strokes over the next two years, saving 1,000 lives and also saving the NHS £84m.

This is just one of many examples of how our expertise at driving the rapid adoption and spread of innovation is driving down costs and improving outcomes for patients, highlighting another of the AHSNs’ unique abilities: brokering connections between the NHS and the healthcare companies that are developing the systems, devices and products that can provide answers to some of our major health challenges.

Connecting the NHS with innovative health companies not only improves patient outcomes, it supports economic growth. During our first five years, the AHSNs attracted millions of pounds of inward investment and created over 500 jobs.

Clearly, the NHS faces some huge pressures. As we head into our new five-year licence, the 15 AHSNs are committed to working together to deliver some ambitious national programmes. In addition to the atrial fibrillation breakthrough, these include:

  • Improving patient safety and making better use of medicines to save NHS money and reduce the risk of patient harm;
  • Using digital technology to save NHS resources and help patients manage their care;
  • Preventing cerebral palsy in pre-term babies through administration of magnesium sulphate;
  • Helping both innovation companies and frontline NHS staff to take their great ideas and spread them.

Our track record of creating strong partnerships is the basis for ‘Innovation Exchanges.’ Funded by the Office for Life Sciences, these bring cross-sector partners  together to identify, deploy and test solutions to big challenges. Each AHSN will be coordinating Innovation Exchanges within their regions.

The AHSNs also continue to host the 15 regional Patient Safety Collaboratives, commissioned by NHSI. They are playing a vitally important role in creating safer care systems.

Please do find out more about the AHSNs and get in touch if you have an interest in using innovation and technology to support our NHS to meet its future challenges.

 

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