by GK Strategy 24th October, 2017
3 min read

Adopting innovation in the NHS is not all about the Money

The Government’s life sciences agenda is one of the positive stories emerging from a time of political drudgery. They have rightly identified the significant potential – for the economy and for patients – of encouraging collaboration across academia, health and industry. Given the current context of increased demand and restricted finances, there is a pressure on the NHS to put forward an optimistic agenda for their contribution to innovation and growth. Finding efficiencies and generating additional revenue streams have enticed the system and its leaders to welcome collaboration, but what are the incentives for people working on the NHS frontline to adopt new models of working at a time of severe constraints?

The Government’s announcement of funding worth £86m for UK firms to develop medical breakthroughs and additional funding expected in the sector deal before the end of the year is a move in the right direction. These pockets of money allow SMEs to develop and test new technologies in the NHS and are therefore very welcome. Digital exemplars, innovation hubs and the rollout of cutting-edge genomic centres highlight the potential that should be tapped, but the Government alone cannot drive transformation in the NHS and while funding incentivises the development and testing of new technologies, there is still a question mark over how to incentivise staff on the frontline to enable the transition from invention to scalability.

This is the crux of the issue.

It would appear to an outside observer that every trust is involved in some form of pilot, but too often they never see wider implementation across the system. Of course, not all innovations are worthy of wholesale adoption, but change management is often a limiting factor to accurately assessing the successfulness of a pilot. With the current workforce challenges, it is unfair to expect NHS staff to constantly drive revenue generating schemes when they are also being expected to deliver outstanding care within the context of increased demand and reduced resource.

All too often, harnessing finance or tackling unwieldy regulation are cited as the major hurdles to system-wide adoption. The process of actually promoting and supporting change within the workforce is always seen as secondary. Although this chronologically makes sense, ignoring those who actually make the change happen is a key barrier to transformation at scale. Encouraging staff to engage in the process of innovation and establishing innovation as a mainstream activity will go a long way in ensuring the move from invention to wide-scale adoption.

New products or technologies can save the NHS money and improve productivity, but too frequently they fail to deliver the intended result because take up is low. Providers need to be engaged from an early stage to ensure that staff on the frontline are bought into the process.

What the system needs are leaders who can manoeuvre and manage change, especially within their workforces.

Companies that are looking to pilot their innovations should be aware that NHS staff are going to be the best advocates of their products – so supporting them in the change process is a must. Both patients and staff need to be engaged from an early stage to enable genuine acceleration. Yes, the Government should provide funding pockets for investment in innovation and yes they should make sure the regulatory environment is not a hindrance, but industry and NHS organisations must work together more effectively to enable under pressure staff to fully adopt the technologies of the future. With adequate support for the adoption of innovation, the potential of the life science’s agenda can be realised – this will undoubtedly help achieve the system’s required efficiencies, but more importantly, it will improve patient outcomes.

How can we help? Get in touch with ella@gkstrategy.com

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