NHS Innovation Accelerator Celebration: Getting Data Sharing Right

It is such a pleasure to at the Fourth Annual Celebration of the fantastic National Innovation Accelerator, and to be able to celebrate the first group of NIA Alumni.

I was lucky enough to spend some time discussing innovation in the NHS with some of you at a roundtable a few weeks ago. We all know how complex and challenging it can sometimes be to get a new product into the system, but I came away both excited and impressed.

Excited by your passion deliver lasting patient benefits through innovation. And impressed by our shared desire to make the sure is one of the best places to develop and deploy innovation.

And it should be. We have a world-renowned science and research base, a prized national asset in the NHS and a strong healthtech innovation ecosystem.

We’re home to some of the most innovative companies in the world. All 30 of the top medtech businesses have a presence in the UK and are bringing exciting innovations to UK patients.

And new sectors are coming to the fore, employment in digital health rose by 10% between 2016 and 2017, bringing total employment to over 10,000 and generating £1.2bn in turnover.

And we’re seeing talented clinicians developing their own solutions to complex health problems. Your dedication and ingenuity are an inspiration and we’re already seeing some of your amazing products begin to benefit real NHS patients

· From new devices, like PrecisionPoint, which is helping urologists conduct quicker and more effective biopsies and reduced patient discomfort;

· To new digital apps, like MyCOPD, which allows patients and clinicians to monitor and manage their condition and which could save £67 million in COPD and £21 million in asthma exacerbations each year;

· And even new, preventative, models of care, like DrDoctor, which improves appointment scheduling and increases clinical efficiency by reducing no-shows has grown from four to 14 NHS contracts, delivering efficiency savings to the NHS of up to 20 million per annum.

So now we need to embed this innovation culture across the NHS. It is essential that we share the passion in this room with everybody, from junior doctors and nurses to commissioners and patients (and of course, government ministers). If we work together, share knowledge and experience, we can create the NHS we need for the future.

And this means building close partnerships between industry and the NHS and establishing neworks to share the secrets to spreading innovation. Networks like the NIA are a great example of this.

By providing bespoke support we are hopefully giving you the best chance to get your innovations to patients – changing lives.

I know the alumni here today will become champions of healthcare innovation, inspiring the next cohort of ambitious innovators.

What is government currently doing to support innovation

But there is of course still work to be done to ensure healthcare innovators like you are fully supported.

At the roundtable, you identified evidence, skills, talent, and articulation of NHS needs as areas that we must work together to improve.

Digital Skills

On skills, The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (LSIS) identified the importance of developing home-grown skills and maintaining access to the world’s best talent. Since last year’s Life Sciences Sector Deal, government has worked closely with the sector to ensure industry has the skills it needs.

We have set out a series of commitments to increase the uptake of life sciences apprenticeships and strengthen UK STEM education. This will ensure the life sciences sector has a pipeline of home-grown highly skilled workers.

Industry skills must be matched by an equally talented and digital-ready NHS workforce:

i. The Topol Review has set out how we can ensure digital skills are embedded in the future NHS.;

ii. Health Education England’s “Building a Digital Ready Workforce” programme will support health and care staff to use digital tools and encourage innovation across their clinical teams; and

iii. The Technology Enhanced Learning Programme will ensure healthcare training uses the most sophisticated new technologies, including spreading simulation-based learning and immersive technologies to over a million healthcare workers.

NHSx and principles of data

Unlocking the potential of digital technology also depends on us having a national infrastructure that is safe, interoperable, and patient-centered. Which is why I am delighted that NHSx launched last week.

NHSx is a new joint unit combining teams from the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician.

The X stands for patient experience.

By bringing together the best talent from government, the NHS and industry, NHSx aims to create the most advanced health and care service in the world. This means, diagnosing diseases earlier, freeing up staff time and empowering patients to take greater control of their own healthcare.

Establishing NHSx is the first step to realising the UK’s unique strengths in patient data.

Our vision is to make the UK home to data-driven innovation, improving outcomes for patients and further enhancing the UK’s position as a global leader in science and research.

When I spoke to some of the NIA alumni you agreed that harnessing the power of data is key to for both innovators and NHS leaders.

The fair, transparent use of health data to underpin research and innovation has the potential to improve diagnosis and treatment, create a better experience of care, and increase the efficiency of the system.

But we need to recognise that the pace of technological change calls for clear guidance and support for researchers and innovators to work together to deliver fair benefit to patients, the public and the NHS.

That is why, today, I am delighted to announce two things.

First, we are publishing an update to our guiding principles setting out the Government’s expectations on how the NHS

should engage with researchers and innovators when entering into data-sharing partnerships, helping ensure the best outcomes for the NHS and patients. These principles sit alongside the code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology, and the Secretary of State’s technology vision, and will form the basis of a full policy framework which we will publish later this year.

We are grateful to the over 70 organisations, including patient representative groups, health and data experts, NHS bodies and industry partners, we have spoken to already about this important work. It is vital that this work has engendering public trust at its heart, and therefore we have also committed to undertake extensive public engagement.

I am grateful to Understanding Patient Data for their dedicated support in commissioning and overseeing an independent programme of deliberative engagement, which will underpin the next stage of our work developing the full policy framework.

Second, I can announce that the Government will set up a National Centre of Expertise to provide specialist advice and guidance to the NHS on data-sharing partnerships. The Centre will sit in NHSx and play a pivotal role in ensuring the framework is embedded in practice.

The Accelerated Access Collaborative

As I said earlier close, collaborative partnership between NHS organisations, with industry, and across government will be essential to deliver on these challenges.

This is why we have expanded the role of the Accelerated Access Collaborative to become the single umbrella organisation across the UK health innovation ecosystem. Under the leadership of Sam Roberts, who you will be hearing from shortly, we have agreed that the AAC will make progress on delivering the following six key priorities.

Implementing a system to identify the best new innovations and help the NHS to get to use them – ensuring that regulators and the NHS have a unified, clear view on the pipeline of products being developed.

Establishing a single point of call for innovators working inside or outside of the NHS, so they can understand the system and where to go for support.

Signalling the needs of patients and clinicians at both a national and local level so the market can have a better view of what problems they need to solve.

Establishing a globally leading testing infrastructure, so innovators can generate the evidence they need to get their products into the NHS faster and at lower cost.

Overseeing a health innovation funding strategy that ensures public money is focused on the areas of greatest impact for the NHS and patients, and aligns with the excellent work of charities, research organisations, and VC funds.

Finally, supporting the NHS to more quickly adopt clinically and cost-effective innovations, to ensure patients get access to the best new treatments and technologies faster than ever before.

With the exceptionally strong foundations of the Sector Deal, the establishment of NHSx to drive digital and data transformation, and now the major expansion of the AAC to drive adoption, I am more confident than ever that together we can create one of the most exciting health innovation systems in the world.

Our celebration of the inaugural cohort of NIA alumni pays testament to the passion and commitment we have for innovations to deliver sustained healthcare benefits for patients. I am sure that you share my conviction to share the passion in this room not only to fellow innovators, but to NHS staff and patients alike.

Nicola Blackwood