Fund established to boost innovation in UK health service

By Sam Collins
12:00 AM

A £220 million fund will be made available to encourage innovation within the NHS, UK Health Minister Lord Darzi announced at the launch of Innovation for a Healthier Future, a series of initiatives to nurture and reward new ideas within the NHS.

Building on the UK government's firm commitment to create an innovative health service, England's ten Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) will each receive £2 million this year, and £5 million in each of the following four years to support frontline NHS staff in developing innovative ideas.

The cash will be invested directly into a combination of projects on the ground and at regional level, speeding up the time it takes for innovative solutions to get from design bench to NHS bedside. This will benefit patients directly and increase the quality of the care they receive.

Many innovative ideas in the NHS risk not being developed due to a lack of funding. The fund has been made available to help bring these ideas about and empower the inspiration of the 1.3 million NHS staff and their colleagues in social care who make a difference each day to people's lives.

Lord Darzi said: "This announcement is a huge step forward in implementing the recommendations set out last summer in my strategy on the future of the NHS.

"NHS staff have told me that accessing the funds to make ideas become reality can be a struggle and as a result, many great ideas never get realised. That is why I am delighted to announce that we now have a £220 million innovation fund available to get those ideas off the bench and to patient bedsides, day centres or GP surgeries.

"We know that around 40 percent of the world's inventions over the past 50 years originated in the UK and that the NHS is rightly recognised as a world leader in the development of innovative treatments and technologies - but we can be better at putting those good ideas into action and these funds will help do exactly that."

The Government has also announced that alongside this funding, it has put in a place a support structure on innovation for Strategic Health Authorities, with NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) and the Young Foundation acting as advisers to SHAs in bringing about a true innovation culture. The two bodies have a proven track record in nurturing and supporting innovation and assisting organisations to turn great ideas into great improvements.

NESTA Chief Executive Jonathan Kestenbaum said: "The pressures on delivering high quality healthcare have never been greater. Yesterday's solutions to tomorrow's problems won't work. The SHA Innovation Fund will ensure that fresh ideas and radical thinking by frontline staff can be delivered across the NHS. NESTA has developed expertise in how to encourage innovative public services and we are pleased to be able to put this into action at the very heart of public service delivery."

In addition, Lord Darzi announced further details of the "Innovation Challenge Prizes" which will engage with innovators globally and invite them to devise exciting new ways to address key health challenges.

The prizes will be a key way in which to recognise and promote emerging best practice and the Challenges themselves will be designed to engage a wide range of NHS staff.

A panel of experts will create a shortlist of possible challenges with the exact challenges announced later this year following a public engagement process. The Panel will be assisted in its work by Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio and one of the UK's leading inventors.

Baylis said: "Britain has an outstanding heritage in innovation, from the steam engine to the MRI scanner - we are a nation of innovators who are constantly looking for new, different and better ways of doing things. The Innovation Challenges Prizes are a fantastic opportunity to create and develop ideas that can genuinely change lives for the better."

Alongside this new investment and support, England's Strategic Health Authorities will also be subject to a legal duty to promote innovation and support the diffusion of innovative technologies and solutions throughout the health service.

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