8 January 2019


The Innovation Agency and fellow Academic Health Science Networks have been highlighted as key players in speeding up the adoption of innovations in the NHS.

They are named in the NHS Long Term Plan as partners in spreading innovations in their regions and supporting service improvement, with a vote of confidence underlined by a guarantee of funding for AHSNs until 2023.

Simpler innovation system

The Long Term Plan announced the introduction of a simpler, clearer innovation system which includes AHSNs. This will help to speed up the pipeline for developing innovations in the NHS, so that proven and affordable innovations get to patients faster. Supported by the AHSN Network’s Innovation Exchange, this will include a new advisory service for healthcare innovators.

This focus on supporting innovators will continue through successful initiatives such as the Clinical Entrepreneurs programme and the NHS Innovation Accelerator, delivered in partnership with the AHSNs. Through a major expansion, these will include those seeking to drive quality improvement through non-commercial models.

Preventing AF-related strokes

The AHSNs’ ground-breaking work to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation (AF) is given a boost in the Long Term Plan with the announcement of a package of activity to improve anticoagulation rates. Pharmacists and nurses in primary care networks will be supported to case-find and treat people with high-risk conditions.

The Innovation Agency was the first AHSN to tackle atrial fibrillation and since 2014 has distributed over 600 portable pulse testing devices; carried out an estimated 20,000 pulse tests; and identified around 600 cases of AF, avoiding potential strokes. They are also working in GP practices to review AF cases and check patients are being given the most effective treatments.

Innovation Agency CEO Dr Liz Mear said: “The Long Term Plan sets out a clear way forward for organisations like ourselves focussed on improving care, achieving efficiencies and empowering people to take control of their health and wellbeing.

One of the innovations having a real impact on detecting AF is the Kardia Alivecor, a portable ECG device which is being used to detect irregular pulses. Our picture shows AF Ambassador Michelle Rushton testing Big Brother star Craig Phillips’ pulse at the Williams BMW International Tennis Tournament in Liverpool.

“For us and other AHSNs, we see the plan as a green light to bring more organisations into the fast lane of innovation – in particular, spreading great technologies and other products rather than reinventing them in numerous places.

“There are fantastic innovations developed in our region which we are helping to spread – and likewise, we are introducing products to our partners which have evidence of impact in other parts of the country. We are the honest brokers in the landscape of healthcare innovation and I am delighted to see the acknowledgement of our role in the Long Term Plan.”

 Innovation examples

For examples of the range of benefits for companies working with the AHSNs to access the expertise and opportunities within the NHS, read this recent publication on our work to support economic growth.

For examples of proven innovations supported and spread by AHSNs, visit

Read the full NHS Long Term Plan here.


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