The West of England AHSN warmly welcomes the Government and NHS England’s announcement confirming their intention to relicense England’s 15 academic health science networks (AHSNs) under the revised badge of health innovation networks, reflecting our key role in supporting the development and spread of innovation across health services.

Following the Life Sciences Council meeting on 25 May, it was formally announced that NHS England would commission the networks for five years until 2028.

Set up in 2013 by NHS England to act as innovation arms of the NHS, AHSNs work locally and nationally to support the spread of all types of innovation within the NHS, from new technologies to ways of working and service improvements. Under the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Science, Innovation and Technologies’ joint commission – the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) – AHSNs also provide bespoke support to innovators to accelerate promising innovations from development to adoption, and boost economic growth.

AHSNs began working collectively as the national AHSN Network from 2018, when the first set of national programmes were adopted. Since then, AHSNs have delivered 11 national adoption and spread programmes and supported the rapid uptake of 28 NICE-approved products. These initiatives alone have benefited more than 2.3 million patients. AHSNs have also helped to leverage investment of more than £1.8 billion for UK Plc in the same timeframe.

Natasha Swinscoe, Chief Executive of the West of England AHSN said: “This is wonderful news for all of us in our local healthcare innovation community and we are absolutely delighted that we are being granted a further five-year licence. This will enable us to continue making impact through our work with our three integrated care systems across Gloucestershire; Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire; and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

“Our role as an academic health science network – soon to be Health Innovation West of England – is to speed up the discovery, development and deployment of innovations so that the benefits are available to patients and clinicians earlier and faster. I’m thrilled to be able to build on our strong foundations and continue collaborating with our partners to drive innovation that meets local public health needs and priorities.”

Steve West, Chair of the West of England AHSN and Vice-Chancellor of UWE said: “Over the last few years our AHSN has become firmly embedded in the West of England health and care ecosystem, galvanising all the key players with one common goal: to transform how we deliver services for the benefit of patients and the public.

“Crucial to this has been our work over the last decade with industry and enterprise and the university and research communities, and I believe this announcement heralds extremely exciting times ahead for us all.”

Professor Gary Ford, Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Oxford AHSN said: “It is a testament to the collective impact of the AHSNs over the past 10 years that our commissioners have issued a further licence. We welcome the opportunity and challenge this provides for our teams to identify, develop and spread innovations that meet the priorities of the NHS over the next five years.

“Under the new banner of health innovation networks, each organisation will continue to support local innovation and transformation working with their Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) within their region, support innovators to develop innovations to address local needs, and come together as a national network to evaluate and spread promising solutions at scale.”

“The challenges facing the NHS will only be met by widespread adoption of innovation in digital and diagnostic technology and in data to transform clinical pathways and empower patients.”

Matt Whitty, Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences for NHS England, said: “The academic health science networks play a key role in driving the uptake of health innovation and economic growth, enabling patients to benefit from earlier diagnosis, more effective treatments, and faster recovery.

“The renamed network will have a critical role to play in supporting the new integrated care systems to adopt innovations and will be aligned to NHS priorities such as tackling health inequalities and fulfilling the Life Science’s Vision to deliver improved public services and grow the economy.”

The new licence will come into effect from 1 October 2023. More information about the rollout of the new licences, priority programmes and collaboration with NHS England and the Office for Life Sciences, will follow later this year.


Posted on May 26, 2023

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