The NHS have long had something of an issue with innovation. Being a darling of the public has created a tricky environment within which to bring in outside ideas, with the press only too happy to shout “privatization” at any attempts to do so.
The sheer size of the service has also made it very hard both to try out new ideas and to ensure those ideas spread widely throughout the organization.
Into the breach to try and improve matters is a new program called NHS Test Bed. The initiative is designed to provide an environment where the best ideas can be tested out in a live environment, with the best ones then scaled up and disseminated more widely.
It’s run in conjunction with the 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), whose remit is to largely provide a similar service.
“The NHS’ ambition is to become the best place on the planet to test new combinations of innovations that produce clear payoffs for patients and taxpayers. We’ll never be the system that pays the highest prices, we could be the health service most open to new and better ways of providing care,” said NHS England chief Simon Stevens at the launch.
The aim is to unearth new ways of doing things that deliver improvements to care at the same, or lower, cost.
The project is open to anyone, be they in the UK or further afield, be they from healthcare or from other sectors.
It will be operated in four stages:
- The first stage will be a call to innovators, with organizations invited to describe their proposal and how they can work with test bed sites to explore it further
- The next stage will see a shortlist produced, with matchmaking events held over the summer to flesh out each proposal
- The third stage will then see proposals finalized between innovators and test bed sites
- The final stage will therefore see each proposal put through its paces at the test bed site with support and assistance given to ensure each proposal is thoroughly tested
Interested parties have until the 29th May to apply, and you can find out more information about the project via their prospectus here.
The idea behind the project is indeed an excellent one, and there has long been a need for a better way for innovators to test their mettle and show off their wares within the NHS.
The devil, as always, will be in the detail. There are certainly no shortage of projects inside the NHS that sound excellent on paper but that fail to achieve their aims.
Upon searching the web for mention of the project, very little was actually found, so I’m concerned about just how many innovators are even aware the scheme exists.
As with any innovation funnel, securing a large enough number at the start of the process is often key to ensuring you get good results at the end.
Time will tell how effective they are. If you have some great health related innovations though, I’d urge you to get involved.