An update from Vin Diwakar, Medical Director for Transformation, NHS England
1. How important do you see medical technology and innovation to tackling
the future challenges of the NHS?
Health systems across the world are facing the same pressures; we have a growing
elderly population, and while people are living longer, we’re seeing an increase in
people living with long term illnesses.
The NHS remains a world leader in the provision of health and care, but there is
more to do. Revolutions in the use of data, technology and biotech present the
opportunity to reduce costs and, ultimately, prevent the need for healthcare, put
simply, helping us add years to life and life to years.
The vision we aim to offer patients is personalisation, convenience and choice:
getting your questions answered by a trusted source at any time using your
smartphone, more options for scheduling appointments and tests, renewing
prescriptions online, and specialist care and advice closer to home.
2. How is your team at NHS England working to fulfil the potential of medical
technology and innovation for the NHS?
We’re building an environment where the creation and spread of proven innovation
can flourish. In the innovation, research and life sciences space our horizon-
scanning and demand-signalling team is identifying key priorities and areas of unmet
need. This is enabling us to identify new technology to transform healthcare so we
can provide targeted support.
The findings of our demand signalling work continue to guide and shape funding
calls. Since the publication of our reports, eight funding calls have been advertised,
with funding allocated to 24 individual innovation projects to date. These innovations
are helping to improve health and care services for autistic people and people with a
learning disability, as well as stroke survivors and patients with cardiovascular and
Examples of recent innovations include a peer-to-peer platform to support patients’
mental health, a digital support needs assessment for autistic adults, virtual reality
scenarios to help people overcome phobias and social anxiety to support people with
a learning disability, and a wellbeing platform designed by and for neurodivergent
people. Other examples of innovations announced earlier this year include a home-
based virtual therapy platform for stroke patients, digital inhalers for children allowing
families to monitor usage via a smartphone, and the world’s first and only non-
invasive screening test for coronary and structural heart diseases.
Our work with the new Health Innovation Networks (HINs) will refresh our ability to
adopt innovation at pace and scale; our new NHS Innovation Service provides an
online hub for health and care innovators to connect with their local HIN and other
organisations, including NICE, NIHR, the Department for Trade and Industry, for 1-1
Hosted by NHS England, the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) works across
industry and the NHS. By bringing different parts of the innovation ecosystem
together the AAC make it easier for those seeking to introduce an innovation into the
NHS to know how to go about turning their ideas into viable business propositions.
AAC programmes in 2022 to 2023 supported almost 2,000 innovations, secured
£740m of investment into the UK and provided more than 1.2 million patients access
to proven innovations.
3. What key piece of innovation or technology would you like to see widely
adopted over the next 25 years? (ie for the 100th anniversary of the NHS)
Perhaps the greatest innovation of the modern era is the NHS itself, introduced 75
years ago now – the world’s first universal healthcare system, available to all, free at
the point of access.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already transforming the way we deliver healthcare and
has the potential to do so much more. AI tools are enabling the earlier diagnosis of
conditions, allowing for quicker treatment – for example, AI enabled assessment of
suspicious skin legions is shortening time to discharge and the need for face-to-face
appointments. 39% of dermatology patients at Chelsea and Westminster NHS
Foundation Trust were eligible for discharge after AI-enabled assessment, and 71%
of patients avoided additional face to face appointments by being referred directly to
a biopsy appointment thanks to decisions facilitated by AI.
NHS Trusts will be able to apply to the recently announced £21 million AI Diagnostic
Fund to accelerate the deployment of the most promising AI imaging and decision
support tools to help diagnose patients more quickly for conditions such as cancers,
strokes and heart conditions.