Health Service Focus

22.12.17

Shoe leather, perspiration and caffeine

Source: NHE Nov/Dec 17

NHE’s Josh Mines reports from the NHS Providers annual conference in Birmingham on the work of Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and how organisations should look to push digital innovation forward.

To many attending NHS Providers’ annual conference on 7-8 November, the speeches given by NHS England CEO Simon Stevens and health secretary Jeremy Hunt were a stark reflection of the political tug-of-war that is waging between the government and the health service.

Stevens assertively asked the government to make good on the infamous ‘Brexit Bus’ promise of extra health funding, and warned that the NHS may have to reconsider its limits next year if the current level of funding continues. On the other side of the coin, Hunt seemed reluctant to suggest any more funding was on the way, as he continued to press the importance of organisations saving money by looking at their procurement processes and introducing smarter delivery methods.

This is where innovation comes in. Though it can often seem like huge reform through exciting new technology is the key to driving real change, as West Midlands AHSN business manager Neil Mortimer explained, it’s the little changes that are likely to be the most successful.

“Effective innovation does not equal reinvention,” he stated.  “Innovation is just doing what you don’t currently do or having what you don’t currently have. Innovation in the NHS would be to move from fax to digital communications as a start. It’s easy to say, but it’s a nightmare to do it in such a complicated institution.”

This statement is an often-used and damning reminder of quite how far behind the NHS is compared industries like banking, defence and construction when it comes to its implementation of digital technology.

In terms of improving this uptake, Mortimer said SMEs are often the best option and should be supported. “SMEs can be agile, think on their feet and respond to your needs,” he explained. “In Birmingham we have made innovation incubators for start-ups, which gives SMEs six months of free office space and free broadband, but they also get business advice. This tells them how to sit down with people in the NHS and say: ‘help me understand your problem, help me understand your tech barriers.’”

As Richard Stubbs, CEO of the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, argued, it can often take up to 17 years for an innovation to make its way into mainstream commercial use, and it’s the job of the AHSN to try and reduce this gap. “AHSNs help people, but we are about this 17-year reduction and there are so many different programmes we use to do this,” he explained.

The work of the networks is not simply in driving the development of flashy apps and technology, but also to look at radically altering attitudes to innovation.

“When we boil down the work we do, then it always comes down to culture, which is a real elephant in the room,” Stubbs admitted. “When we think about how we tackle this problem, there isn’t going to be a Big Bang of a new way of doing things – it has to be incremental change. I’m fond of saying that, as an AHSN, our tools are shoe leather, perspiration and caffeine.”

And for real change to be delivered, innovation has to be driven and led by everyone at an organisation, the AHSN boss added: “It’s very much a hearts and minds job. Every hospital, every ward and every commissioner needs convincing to do things differently.So if we’re going to be successful it is about that cultural change, and we are all responsible for driving that innovation culture in practice.”

Though this cultural change will be difficult to implement, there’s no doubt that innovation will be essential for the NHS to continue to maintain a high standard of care. The question is, what will we look back at in five years’ time and think: ‘I can’t believe we used to do things like that?’

 

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

‘Damaging’ NHS targets ‘have had their day’ claims Lord Prior

15/02/2019‘Damaging’ NHS targets ‘have had their day’ claims Lord Prior

NHS targets “have had their day” according to Lord Prior as the head of the health service launches an attack on 25 years of flawed h... more >
Controversial shake-up of Kent stroke services given rubber stamp amid calls for judicial review

15/02/2019Controversial shake-up of Kent stroke services given rubber stamp amid calls for judicial review

A major reorganisation of stroke services across Kent and Medway have been approved following a unanimous decision by the Joint Committee of CCGs... more >
A&E waiting time performance hits all time low as NHS ‘buckles under the strain’

15/02/2019A&E waiting time performance hits all time low as NHS ‘buckles under the strain’

A&E waiting time performances in NHS trusts in England have hit their lowest level since regards began, according to the latest NHS statistic... more >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital e... read more >

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now bey... more > more last word articles >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Blog: 5 minutes with Dr Tracy Vell MBE, Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partnership.

14/02/2019Blog: 5 minutes with Dr Tracy Vell MBE, Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partnership.

Ahead EvoNorth we caught up with Dr Tracy Vell MBE, Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partnership. Dr Tracy Vell MBE shares her thoughts on the Northern Powerhouse, what it means to her and why she thinks it’s important to attend EvoNorth.  What does your role as Associate Lead for Primary and Community Care, Greater Manchester, Health and Social Care Partnersh... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

comment

Maximising volunteer potential in hospitals

14/02/2019Maximising volunteer potential in hospitals

Sam Ward, director of commissioned services at the Royal Voluntary Service, argues that the right training can help harness the power of voluntee... more >
Leading and managing experts

14/02/2019Leading and managing experts

A coaching conversation is likely to yield the best results. Managing experts in the health industry can be a challenging and varying responsibil... more >
Mesothelioma in the UK: a growing fight

14/02/2019Mesothelioma in the UK: a growing fight

The health impacts of asbestos in the UK can cast a much wider net than those in the construction and building sector. Liz Darlison, head of serv... more >
ICO: Cyber security and the NHS

14/02/2019ICO: Cyber security and the NHS

Peter Brown, acting head of technology policy at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), explains the importance of good practice in data pr... more >
Mental health and the NHS estate: putting it right

06/02/2019Mental health and the NHS estate: putting it right

With toilets falling apart, poor soundproofing, and uncomfortably hard flooring, mental health facilities can often feel more like prisons than a... more >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to surging demand burdening acute health providers over the winter months,... more >
RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

24/10/2018RCP president on new Liverpool college building: ‘This will be a hub for clinicians in the north’

The president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has told NHE that the college’s new headquarters based in Liverpool will become a hu... more >
Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

24/01/2018Duncan Selbie: A step on the journey to population health

The NHS plays a part in the country’s wellness – but it’s far from being all that matters. Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Pu... more >
Cutting through the fake news

22/11/2017Cutting through the fake news

In an era of so-called ‘fake news’ growing alongside a renewed focus on reducing stigma around mental health, Paul Farmer, chief exec... more >
Tackling infection prevention locally

04/10/2017Tackling infection prevention locally

Dr Emma Burnett, a lecturer and researcher in infection prevention at the University of Dundee’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and a boar... more >