Harold Wilson used to say the only human institution that rejects progress is the cemetery.
Last year’s Accelerated Access Review issued a call to arms for the government and the NHS to speed up patient access to innovative healthcare solutions. For the NHS, this was based on two imperatives: firstly, the sector must actively support the development and enhancement of innovative treatments and care that improves patient outcomes and experience. Secondly, it must pursue solutions that drive value and affordability across the system and ensure the future financial sustainability of the sector.
Cost improvement programmes
For those managing the purse strings, it is this second purpose that piques particular interest. As the NHS strives to close the funding gap, each year providers are expected to deliver ambitious cost improvement programmes (CIPs) that are increasingly reliant on non-recurrent savings. These savings are one-off in nature and examples include income generated from selling surplus buildings, or savings from leaving posts temporarily vacant.
Providers are increasingly turning towards innovative digital solutions that will transform the way care is delivered and will help the sector achieve long term financial sustainability.Policy officer - finances
During quarter 1 this year, for example, non-recurrent measures made up 19% of savings achieved, against a plan of only 7%. CIPs should instead be based on solutions that are recurrent and focus on cost reduction, cost avoidance or include service productivity improvements. Providers are increasingly turning towards innovative digital solutions that will transform the way care is delivered and will help the sector achieve long term financial sustainability. For many, this has involved significant collaboration and partnership with the commercial sector to speed up the identification and implementation of these solutions.
Within the healthcare sector, and the NHS provider sector in particular, the opportunities are wide ranging. Take, for example, the cost of sequencing a whole human genome, which has fallen from $100m to $1,000 in less than twenty years. The impact this has on personalised medicine will mean that many more health systems will be able to produce far more accurate diagnoses and effective interventions. Tailored therapies that are no longer based on a “one size fits all” approach will lead to a significant reduction in avoidable costs.
Other innovations are focused on improving information sharing by handing patients (and carers) control over their own health information, which enhances decision making and communication with clinicians. By empowering patients like this services may become more productive as new ways of working are developed, based on the rebalance of information sharing.
Changing the way healthcare is delivered, however, often requires input from outside the NHS.
Innovation is always based on the exchange of ideas, regardless of institutional boundaries. The new Innovation and Technology Tariff (ITT), launched in November 2016, hopes to go someway toward improving the uptake of innovation within the NHS, with one category focused on web based applications for the self-management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But many providers have taken it upon themselves to pursue their own individual partnerships with the commercial sector. This is leading to the proliferation of ideas and opportunities from artificial intelligence to patient generated wearable data.
Many providers have taken it upon themselves to pursue their own individual partnerships with the commercial sector, generating ideas and opportunities from artificial intelligence to patient generated wearable data.Policy officer - finances
For its part, the national leadership of the NHS recognises these developments. Many advances are emerging from new, smaller organisations, partnered in many cases with a single trust, that can often scale up but where in most cases require a skills transfer to take place. The Global Digital Exemplars, as well as the ‘fast followers’, are designed to share their learning and experiences, and will hopefully enable other trusts to take up their innovations and roll out efficiencies across the NHS.
Driving efficiency through innovative digital partnerships will be explored at this year’s annual conference in our finance strand. We will hear from trusts who are already working with commercial partners to design and implement digital innovations, and share examples of what worked, how it worked and why it worked.
Our annual conference finance strand is an opportunity to hear from trusts who are already working with commercial partners to design and implement digital innovations and drive efficiency.policy officer - finances
We hope these conversations continue after the session has finished. A lot of progress has already been made in the digital sphere, so it can be difficult to stay on top of the latest developments and advances. The challenges facing the NHS are large, but the solutions could be exciting and radical.