Diffusing innovation in healthcare

Britain has a long and proud tradition of leading medical innovation.

The smallpox vaccine invented by Edward Jenner is said to have saved more lives than have been lost in all wars. Sir Ronald Ross won the first British Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for his discovery that malaria was carried by mosquitoes. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, and Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA.

Medical innovation has been, and remains, a defining feature of our country.

But despite these impressive credentials, the NHS has in the past been regarded by some innovators, both in the UK and abroad, as challenging to enter, navigate and scale across. And, as outlined in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, state-of-the-art, cost-effective solutions and new ways of delivering care are key to improving the health of our nation.

With pressures on the NHS, including an aging population, more long-term conditions, increasing costs and constrained budgets, the demand for innovative solutions that enables better patient care while offering improved value for the taxpayer is growing fast. This is a time like no other to focus our efforts on diffusing new innovation across the healthcare system.

To build on this priority, we launched the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) in January, a programme aiming to encourage scale and adoption of innovations in the NHS.

The programme will select up to twenty healthcare pioneers along with their tried and tested innovations, both from the UK and internationally, through an open application process, scaling enrolled innovations across parts of the service to improve care and reduce costs.

NHS England and the hosts for the programme, UCLPartners and The Health Foundation, in partnership with Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and patient groups, will work with the selected pioneers and NHS organisations to achieve this.

To bring global learning to the NHS, the programme will be supported by the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery (IPIHD) – a collaboration including the World Economic Forum, and Professor Victor Dzau, President of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Enrolled innovators will receive regional and national support, with access to world-class mentors that include Lord Ajay Kakkar, Lord Ara Darzi, Sir John Burn and Sir Sam Everington.

At a personal level, innovation has been a passion of mine for several years because it combines my interests and experiences in clinical practice, research, policy and entrepreneurship. It’s been a fantastic learning experience having only joined NHS England in August 2014. Collaborating on this programme has given me great insight into examples of teamwork and dedication across different departments in the organisation, from communications and media, to innovation and finance.

It is this cohesiveness that allows us to deliver quality care to patients across England amid the aforementioned pressures.

Innovation is integral to a sustainable and successful NHS, and scaling cutting-edge innovations can improve patient care.

If you think you and your innovation fit the bill please apply to be part of the NIA.

  • Applications for the NIA are due February 27. The programme will start in July 2015 with a bespoke accelerator course. For more information please visit
Dr Mahiben Maruthappu

Dr Mahiben Maruthappu is a practicing doctor and Senior Fellow to the CEO of NHS England. He advises on NHS England’s innovation, technology and prevention portfolio, co-founding the NHS Innovation Accelerator and the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.

He has advised a range of organisations, from start-ups to multilaterals, including the Swiss government and the Experiment Fund and the WHO.

Mahiben has a strong interest in research with over 80 peer-reviewed publications and 50 academic awards. His work has been featured by BBC News and the international press.

He is Chairman of the UK Medical Students’ Association (UKMSA), and has written three medical books. Mahiben was educated at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard universities and was the first person from British healthcare to be included in Forbes’ 30 under 30.

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  1. Martin Dransfield says:

    Four years of trying and how much of this innovation has the NHS implemented?
    Still less than 10% ?

    Innovation Health and Wealth, Accelerating Adoption and Diffusion in the NHS

    ODM is a minimally invasive technology used by anaesthetists
    during surgery to assess the fluid status of the patient and
    guide the safe administration of fluids and drugs.

    In March 2011, NICE published guidance on the use of
    ODM, recommending it for patients undergoing major or
    high-risk surgery and certain other surgical patients. Despite a
    comprehensive evidence base, uptake of this technology has
    been poor across the NHS. Full adoption of this technology
    across the NHS is forecast by NICE to benefit over 800,000
    patients and generate net financial savings of over £400m.
    Current information suggests that these technologies are used
    for less than 10% of applicable patients.

    •• We will launch a national drive to get full implementation
    of ODM, or similar fluid management monitoring
    technology, into practice across the NHS.