Patients set to benefit through fresh boost to innovation

More than £150,000 will be awarded to new ideas to address England’s biggest healthcare challenges in the first wave of this year’s NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes.

The Challenge is part of a broader drive to embed innovation across the NHS which includes the NHS Innovation Accelerator and Test Bed programmes, the vanguard sites around the New Models of Care and the Health and Care Innovation Expo in September.

The 2014-15 NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for the Use of Technology – worth £100,000 – led to a new referral system in Southend for patients suffering a mini stroke that has increased the number of high risk patients being seen within 24 hours from 17 percent to 96 percent.  If successfully adopted across the NHS, this referral system could save an estimated £116 million a year.

Applications for this year’s prize fund will be accepted from 12pm today and are open to anyone working in the NHS with an innovation that will improve the way that services are delivered.

MSD is providing £100,000 for the prizes with the remaining £50,000 funded by NHS England.  As well as prize money, all winners will receive a tailored package of professional support from internal and external partners to help them develop their innovation and spread it across the system.

The two categories in the first wave are:

  • A cancer challenge to recognize initiatives that demonstrate clear delivery of the NHS Cancer Strategy and Five Year Forward View through new models of care.
  • A series of ‘acorn’ prizes to be awarded to small innovations that have the potential to make a big difference to patients.

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens said: “The NHS has the opportunity to become one of the fastest adopters of innovation in the world.  These prizes are just one of a number of initiatives to support new ideas that will allow us to meet the challenges we face and to transform care for our patients.”

NHS England National Director for Commissioning Strategy Ian Dodge said: “What makes the challenge prizes special is that they reward great ideas from people who already work in the NHS, and can see for themselves what needs to change.  It might be an app, or a gadget, or a different way of doing something.  These are ideas you’d never get from behind a desk in Whitehall, and because they’re “made in the NHS” they’ve got the very best chance of success.  We’re getting behind them with financial and practical help, because we want to see great care for patients and great value for the taxpayer”.

National Clinical Director for Cancer for NHS England, Sean Duffy said: “Innovation is about improving patient care by finding new solutions to the challenges we face. The Innovation Challenge Prizes are another way for us to create the conditions for proven new ideas to be adopted faster and more systematically through the NHS.”

Entries will be judged by an expert panel made up of clinical, industry, third sector, patient organisations and NHS England leaders. The deadline for applications is 12pm 14 September 2015 and winners will be announced in November.  For more information and key dates go to:


  • Over the last five years, the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes have helped to identify and spread proven innovations, promote a culture of invention and drive adoption of the best ideas, including:

­ The Fitness for Work programme in Derbyshire which has helped save an equivalent of £244,800 in sickness absence cost.

­ Social barriers have been broken in Leicestershire thanks to a team of school nurses and young people who have devised a safe and secure helpline using smart phones and SMS texting for young people with self-harm issues.

­ Medical guidance information is now presented in an entertaining way using music and video imagery to help capture the attention of their target audience.  This scheme could help address public health priority areas such as smoking, obesity and stroke in the future.

­ A team of bicycle-mounted paramedics in central London reducing call-out times in high footfall areas were awarded £150,000 for saving 5,600 hours of ambulance time per year and generating savings of £1.5 million per year, after costs.

­ A novel diagnostic pathway to detect significant liver disease in the community was awarded £100,000 for the potential to save lives and increase detection rates for cirrhosis by 200% with projected cost savings across the NHS in England being as much as £74.6 million in the first year if rolled out.

­ A group of physiotherapists in Kent who are using artificial intelligence to screen patients with carpal tunnel syndrome were awarded £50,000 for saving an estimated £56,000 per annum on neurophysiology tests across a local population of 700,000, which if rolled out to the NHS, could provide £4 million in savings.

­ Staffordshire’s ‘Memory First’ project which pioneered a joined-up approach to dementia care was awarded £80,000 for cutting diagnosis times from three years to four weeks and providing cost savings of nearly £500,000 per year for a catchment area of 280,000 patients.

­ Other case studies of winners can be found at:

  • Announcements for Wave two will be in the autumn.
  • Follow @ChallengePrizes on Twitter to stay updated on further support for applicants.

One comment

  1. Keith Marshall says:

    This is a great idea, and hopefully will generate some great innovations across the NHS. I come from a Banking Background ( Barclays) we had an ideas committee based up in London somewhere, who every 4-6 weeks looked at ideas sent in by ordinary members of staff, which although small, could deliver signifcant cost savings nationwide, or improve the way we delivered our products and services. I applaud what you are doing here, but the average ‘ jane or Joe’ in the surgery, may be sitting there mulling over things that they do every single day, and if encouraged to try something different could make a massive difference, you are targeting special groups of people/ organisations within the NHS with what you are proposing here , when there is a massive front line of staff , who could deliver significant cost savings to the NHS, if they were asked about their idea, and rewarded in some way for doing so, might be some cash, holiday vouchers etc, the NHS might want to think about linking up with external partners ( by way of sponsorship) as a way of pulling this all together with a view to making us even more of a world class organisation than we already are. Happy to help if anyone wants to explore this further.