Building on the great legacy as one of the most innovative health systems in the world

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 16

Dr Liz Mear, chair of the AHSN Network, and Dr Charlie Davie, managing director of UCLPartners, consider the recommendations of the Accelerated Access Review (AAR) and what this will mean for patients and the system in the future.

The recently published AAR offers clear recommendations to the UK government on reforms to speed up patients’ access to innovative medicines, technologies, diagnostics and products. The aim is to make the UK the best place in the world to design, develop and deliver the most effective and best-value healthcare innovations, with an NHS that embraces the new drugs and technologies that patients need.   

The review provides a huge opportunity to build on the great work that is happening across health and care to ensure that patients across the country have faster access to the latest treatments and technologies. 

As a national network, AHSNs have had a central role in informing the AAR, building on our experience and knowledge of healthcare innovation and transformation and partnership working between patients, health professionals, health organisations and industry. We are delighted to see the final published review, which we believe is fundamental in making a positive difference to patients on a greater scale than previously possible.  

We all recognise the huge potential in the NHS to be creative and innovative, yet the system as a whole is slow to adopt new ideas and best practice. AHSNs exist to speed up this process, to improve patient care and reduce system inefficiencies. We act as honest brokers within our local region, mobilising expertise and knowledge across the NHS, academia and industry to help improve lives, save money and drive economic growth through innovation. As a national network of 15 AHSNs, we work together in ways unprecedented across health and care, delivering change at pace and scale. This is having real impact through our collective work.  

Improving lives, saving money and driving economic growth 

An example of national collaboration is the hugely successful NHS Innovation Accelerator, which in its first year supported the adoption of 17 innovations into 388 NHS organisations and helped secure more than £17m investment to help scale-up health innovation. These innovations are proven to make a real and positive impact on people’s lives and are reducing costs in the NHS.  

Sleepio is just one example. A digital sleep improvement programme, available online and on mobile devices, that is being used across the NHS for patients with severe, long-term sleep problems and for those with anxiety and depression: debilitating conditions for patients and a huge, largely hidden, cost to the healthcare system. The benefits demonstrated through Sleepio in a short space of time are highly impressive. Not only is this simple tool changing people’s lives (it halves the time taken to fall asleep and has enabled over two-thirds of people with anxiety and depression to move to recovery), it’s saving money (costs per course are 70% lower than equivalent psychological therapy).  

Another example is dramatically improving the quality lives of new mothers by reducing injury in childbirth. Approximately 15% of births in England require the woman to have an episiotomy, and of these around 25% experience complications and injury.  Specially-designed fixed angle scissors (Episcissors-60) are being used across the NHS to prevent these injuries caused by human error in episiotomy.  This is improving the quality of lives of new mothers who have undergone this procedure while significantly reducing litigation costs incurred by the NHS, which for this unacceptable complication could be in the region of £23.5m. 

The AAR has also highlighted the role of AHSNs in promoting the uptake of tried and tested digital health innovation; an area which allows the NHS, patients, large and small industry partners to come together and match patient need with 21st century solutions.

These are just a snapshot of the achievements that are happening across the country and the AAR shows how everyone across the healthcare spectrum, not least patients, can embrace innovation and transform the health and wellbeing of the population.    

Where do we go from here? 

We are now looking at what this means in practice for the healthcare system and exploring how the proposed Accelerated Access Partnership will function. This is an important next step. To do so, we are working with our colleagues at NICE, NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Office of Life Sciences to clarify the clinical, social and economic impacts.  

Equally importantly, we are setting up discussions with our many partners from within healthcare, together with patient groups and representatives from small-medium sized enterprises and other industry partners. Through these conversations and by co-design, we can create regional innovation eco-systems or ‘Innovation Exchanges’ that can also be nationally aligned. The aim is to get the best care pathways and products out quickly and fairly to everyone who might benefit and then demonstrate the necessary improved outcomes and cost savings to the NHS.   

The AAR highlights additional investment to make the recommendations deliverable and sustainable.  Discussing this opportunity is vital if the AAR is to be a true catalyst for inward investment in the UK, building on our great legacy as one of the most innovative healthcare systems in the world.  

We look forward to hearing the government’s response in due course.

For more information

The Accelerated Access Review can be accessed at:



Hermit Singh   25/12/2016 at 19:58

Ahs(e) over T.I.T.S. perhaps ? The nhs is barely capable of stemming the worsening haemorrhage of resources from systemic, inappropriate use of its ailing services. How will tinkering with "fake innovations" stem the exsanguination ??

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