Championing successful innovation in the NHS

Dr Charlie Davie is Managing Director of UCLPartners AHSN and a practicing clinical consultant

Dr Charlie Davie

June 2016

UCLPartners’ Dr Charlie Davie talks about the success achieved by the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) in its first year and why now more than ever we need to embrace and support new ideas and technology

The NHS Innovation Accelerator is one of the things we do really well in the NHS.  It started as the answer to a simple question back in 2014 “how can we help innovators get their proven and tested products to as many people as quickly as possible?”  And the answer was the creation of the NIA, which is now a national programme that supports 17 of the world’s top healthcare innovators, whose products and services have benefited over 3 million patients across England.  This success has been achieved in just the first nine months so the scale and possibilities for the future are really exciting.

Now about to begin its second year, the NIA opened to applicants on 17 June as a global search for pioneers with tried and tested innovations that address one of three areas: prevention, earlier diagnosis and managing long-term conditions.  These innovations could be in the form of digital technology, products, services or new ways of working.

The aim is to improve care and outcomes for patients and give them more equal access to the new products and services that are out there either in the market or that have been developed from within the NHS.  We do this by giving innovators (or NIA Fellows) access to a huge network of NHS contacts and other leading experts and providing opportunities and collaborations that they may otherwise not have access to.  This happens through the support of the country’s fifteen Academic Health Science Networks, NHS England and national and international mentors who are the leading lights in healthcare.  Combined with Simon Steven’s announcement of a new reimbursement route for medtech innovations, this makes the NIA a unique and appealing proposition for SMEs and individuals with a great digital product.

What difference is it really making?  In the first year of the NIA we’ve seen some fantastic examples of digital products that are making a huge difference to patients’ lives and are attracting SMEs into the UK healthcare market.  One of these is AliveCor; a mobile health monitor that captures electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, allowing the user to detect and manage heart arrhythmias.  Based in Silicon Valley AliveCor has used the NIA to introduce its product into the NHS, now with over 4,000 users.  Potential outcomes are outstanding in terms of lives saved through better diagnosis of heart arrhythmia and cost savings to the NHS but this among other outcomes will be formally evaluated and the learning shared widely beyond the programme.

Overall, it’s a win win situation for everyone involved.  Given the current uncertainty in UK politics and the economy it’s more important than ever to share success and promote the NHS and UK healthcare as global leaders in supporting industry through piloting and diffusing new technologies.