NHS long-term plan must commit dedicated investment to help the NHS spread innovation more effectively

25 September 2018

As NHS leaders develop the long-term plan for the health service in England, the Health Foundation is today urging them to seize the moment and focus attention on how to spread innovation more widely, supported with dedicated investment.

In a new report released today, the independent charity shines a light on why the uptake of new ideas to improve care can be so difficult and how the NHS can be supported to do it better. It urges those developing the long-term plan to not solely focus on the invention and discovery of new innovations but to also focus on helping local health care providers take on existing innovations and make them work well in their own organisations.

A proposal for new dedicated funding would help to support the NHS to adopt innovations known to benefit patients such as new technologies, practices or care models, and to help tackle the wide variations in performance that exist across the NHS. There are currently lots of innovations and improvements that deliver great benefits to staff and patients in one local area but these successes are not being effectively adopted elsewhere.  

The Health Foundation report, The Spread Challenge: How to support the successful uptake of innovations and improvements in health care, looks at why taking up a new idea and making it work successfully can often be harder than the NHS assumes, and sets out recommendations for addressing this challenge. These include more funding, training and analytical support to assist the uptake of specific ideas and practices as well as measures to help organisations providing NHS care to become better environments for the adoption of innovation more generally.

The Health Foundation argues that a key part of this should be a dedicated fund to support hospitals and other NHS services to develop the knowledge, skills and culture they need to better implement proven solutions and continuously improve the quality of care they provide to patients.

Tim Horton, Assistant Director of Improvement at the Health Foundation, said:

'From the discovery of penicillin to leading the charge on artificial intelligence, no one can deny the UK has a proud history of innovation and invention. Where it has struggled more is in spreading that innovation and making it work well everywhere across the health service. The result is wide variations in performance with the NHS’s best work sometimes being delivered in isolated pockets.

'It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when an innovation has been successfully piloted then the hard work is done and we can just ‘roll it out’. But invention is only half the story. As this new report shows, making an established idea work in a new setting can still take a huge amount of creativity, skill and effort. To exploit the full potential of new breakthroughs in health care, teams and organisations in the NHS need to be supported with the time, resources and space to successfully adopt them.

'Too often we see health care providers in the NHS struggling to take up new innovations and to replicate their impact. So as policymakers and system leaders draw up the long-term plan for the NHS, it is important that debate is not restricted simply to identifying areas for improvement and potential solutions. The challenge is to get the solutions working well everywhere.'

Media contact

Peter Stilwell
Senior External Affairs Manager
020 7664 4647

More about the report

Research report

The spread challenge

This report shines a light on the challenges facing the NHS in improving the uptake of new ideas and practices, and the need ...


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