Is the NHS innovative?

Posted on September 8, 2011 by


The NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson, recently launched a review of innovation in the NHS. Innovation is the process of adopting and diffusing new ideas, technologies and processes. It’s important because it both improves patient care and fosters growth in the healthcare industry, bringing more investment into the UK.

The NHS is one of the largest single healthcare systems in the world so has the potential to be very good at innovation, but in practice we’re often quite slow and some new innovations even fail to achieve widespread use.

Charities can play a valuable role in the innovation process – so AMRC has fed into David Nicholson’s review – it’s a good overview of how charities are directly involved in innovation including some great case studies . David Nicholson is planning to produce a report in November recommending how to improve innovation in the NHS.


In the plan for growth published alongside the 2011 Budget, the government announced that the NHS Chief Executive would review how the adoption and diffusion of innovations could be accelerated across the NHS.

David Nicholson launched his review at the end of June.

Why you might be interested in our response

Our medical research charity sector is pretty unique. Charities fund high quality research and often have strong links with people with medical conditions. We pulled together a series of case studies showing how charities are helping drive innovation including:

  • The Translational Research Initiative for Hearing (TRIH) launched by Action on Hearing Loss which aims to support translational research, i.e. the research focused on pulling new scientific discoveries into treatments that will benefit patients.  Action on Hearing Loss have launched a funding scheme and are helping build partnerships between industry and academics. This includes going out and flagging up to industry low-risk opportunities to invest in developing hearing loss innovations.
  • And there’s a great example of how Yorkshire Cancer Research has provided funding to help get a spin-out company off the ground to build on research they were funding..

We also looked at what we need to do this better at both a national and local level across the health system.

The government has committed in the health bill to embedding a culture of research and innovation throughout the NHS and public health system. We have emphasised how important this will be to fostering innovation. The changes underway in the bill should not be viewed as separate to measures fostering innovation, those scrutinising the bill need to be thinking about where innovation fits.

Ongoing work to streamline regulation – including establishing the Health Research Authority – will also be really valuable to fostering innovation as the time and financial burden of initiating research projects will be reduced.

What next?

David Nicholson has just got all our responses and the review is ongoing – but we’re expecting him to report in November…

Posted in: Policy