NHS Chief launches new fast track funding so NHS patients get treatment innovations faster

The head of NHS England has announced the launch of a new programme to fast-track cutting-edge innovations from across the globe to the NHS frontline.

In his keynote speech to around 1,000 NHS leaders at the NHS Confederation Conference in Manchester, Simon Stevens will announce that for the first time the NHS will provide an explicit national reimbursement route for new medtech innovations. This will accelerate uptake of new medtech devices and apps for patients with diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, sleep disorders, and other chronic health conditions, and many other areas such as infertility and pregnancy, obesity reduction and weight management, and common mental health disorders.

This new funding route will help cut the hassle experienced by clinicians and innovators in getting uptake and spread across the NHS. This is because a new Innovation and Technology tariff category will remove the need for multiple local price negotiations, and instead guarantee automatic reimbursement when an approved innovation is used, while at the same time allowing NHS England to negotiate national ‘bulk buy’ price discounts on behalf of hospitals, GPs and patients.

Mr Stevens will also announce a new round of recruitment to the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme, which supports developers with tried-and-tested innovations to spread them further and faster across the health service.  This follows a successful first year, which saw a rapid roll out of innovations to 68 NHS hospitals, benefitting over 3 million patients.

Examples of innovations supported by the NIA programme which could become routinely commissioned in the NHS:

  • MyCOPD – an app which allows patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) to self-manage their condition on their phone or tablet.  MyCOPD offers patients expert advice and education on how to use their medication properly and how to perform special exercises designed to improve lung function.
    A 63-year-old man with a chronic lung condition said the MyCOPD app changed his life. Paul from Portsmouth was struggling with his COPD, which had left him housebound and unable to do day to day tasks until his clinician Dr Simon Bourne introduced him to the app at a hospital visit.  Paul says: “I have used MyCOPD for 9 months, I use it every day. Last year, before using MyCOPD I had 12 exacerbations, this year I have had just 2. I now know when and how to take my medication, when to use my rescue pack and perform my rehab exercises most days.”
  • AliveCor–a mobile heart monitor that instantly captures electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, allowing the user to detect, monitor and manage heart arrhythmias.  Arrhythmias can cause sudden cardiac death, which kills 100,000 in the UK annually.  The Arrhythmia Alliance estimates 80% of these deaths could be avoided through better diagnosis.  AliveCor also helps detect incidents of atrial fibrillation, which is responsible for a third of all strokes and costs the NHS over £2.2 billion annually.
  • PneuX – a cuffed ventilation tube and inflating device which is used to electronically monitor patients breathing in intensive care to prevent bacteria leaking into the lungs – something that occurs with standard tubes and can result in ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), the leading cause of hospital-acquired mortality in Intensive Care.  On average 10 – 20% (10,000- 20,000) patients will be diagnosed with VAP annually, with a 30% mortality rate. Each episode of VAP costs the NHS between £10k and £20k.  Evaluation from New Cross, Birmingham shows that the NHS saves £700 every time the PneuX is used.

Mr Stevens said: “The NHS has a proud track record of world firsts in medical innovation – think hip replacements, IVF, vaccinations and organ transplants to name just a few. But then getting wide uptake has often been slow and frustrating. Now – at a time when the NHS is under pressure – rather than just running harder to stand still, it’s time to grab with both hands these practical new treatments and technologies.

“In the rest of our lives we’re seeing the difference that innovative tech makes, and now the NHS will have a streamlined way of getting ground-breaking and practical new technologies into the hands of patients and our frontline nurses, doctors and other staff.  By doing that, we can transform people’s lives.”

This new innovation diffusion funding mechanism is consistent with policy direction expected to be recommended in the Department of Health’s forthcoming Accelerated Access Review.

For the first time the new Innovation and Technology tariff will also provide a clear “route to market” for innovations found to be worthwhile in three of NHS England’s flagship “real world” assessment programmes. These are:

  • the NHS test beds programme, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.  Details can also be seen on the Wired website.
  • the NHS England Commissioning throug Evaluation Programme
  • the NHS Innovation Accelerator Programme . In its first successful year (2015), the National Innovation Accelerator (NIA) Programme supported 17 innovation fellows to introduce their high impact, tried and tested innovations into the NHS.  The NIA is now seeking 8 more innovators with new products, services, solutions or new ways of delivering care that address: disease prevention, early detection and long-term conditions. Innovators who are interested can find out more and apply online.  Applicants have until 1 August to submit their application and there will be opportunities to you to receive support in the application process during this time.


  1. Adam Bostock says:

    It’s great to see innovation initiatives in the NHS. In addition to many you might already know about there’s two big exciting areas to follow: the XPRIZE (Star Trek style “Tricorder” to diagnose health problems) and IBM Watson (an AI to assist doctors with diagnosis).

    [I’m not involved with either of those; I’m just a follower and teacher of outstanding innovation.]

  2. Stuart Millward says:

    The NIA is a fantastic opportunity for the UK’s IoT solution enablers, particularly SMEs, to really engage with the NHS front-line stakeholders to understand how effective med-tech is in shifting the balance away from crisis response and towards early community and family intervention.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So where is the process and should it come with all the caveats of a NICE TA?

  4. Michael Branagan-Harris says:

    Great Idea, and fully support these techs – but the fundamental issues with any medical device or diagnostic is a mechanism for reimbursement. I assume these technologies will somehow get onto the NHS Drug Tariff as they are community based? Has this been done? There is no category available on the drug tariff for telemedicine so has this been created? This is the main issue around getting technologies adopted in telemedicine. The NHS is often more than happy to trial or evaluate but not purchase