Lord Darzi challenges the NHS to translate what we know into clinical practice

“It’s not just about new technology or drugs, it’s about the uptake of innovation,” Lord Darzi told a packed session on implementing innovation in the NHS at this year’s Innovation Expo.  Looking back at the success of the NHS’s track record in diffusing innovation over the last 66 years, Professor Lord Darzi, Director at the Institute of Global Health Innovation based at London’s Imperial College, made clear that we must translate what we know works into practice.  Lord Darzi told the audience that “the gap between what we know and what we do is getting wider.  To address the challenges faced by the NHS and to improve quality and access, and reduce cost, we need to translate what we know into clinical practice.”

Before answering questions from the floor, the audience then heard from a panel made up of world class innovators and entrepreneurs. Brian Sivak, Chief Technology officer and Entrepreneur in Residence at the US Department of Health and Human Services, told the audience we must give the NHS the freedom to experiment.  Sivak, who played a central role in the US healthcare reforms, said technology alone won’t address the challenges faced by healthcare systems across the world but cultural adoption and changing the way we work are key.  “Innovation is a result of the freedom to do things differently ,” Sivak said, explaining that “not all experiments will be successful and we must be allowed to fail.”

Dr Dominic King, clinical lecturer at Imperial College London said innovation isn’t just about the next big blockbuster drug or next generation MRI scanner, but also about the low cost solutions such as emails, text messaging and online surgeries that can transform patient care.  King went on the say that NHS England needs to help the health and care system provide an environment where innovation is encouraged, supported and sustainable.

Before wrapping up the questions from the floor, Lord Darzi said that NHS commissioners have a “big role to play in thinking about how they commission care and what they pay for.  They can be powerful agents for change and drive innovation across whole patient pathways that improve quality and outcomes.”

Lord Darzi and Bryan Sivak were joined on the panel by Mairi Johnson, executive director at Healthbox Europe and Maja Kecman, an industrial designer at the HELIX Centre.