Last reviewed 13 December 2016

Eight additional health innovations have been disclosed by NHS England for the second year of the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA). In the previous year, the scheme chose 17 innovations and facilitated roll out of these across 380 NHS organisations helping millions of NHS patients. Investment in the scheme has increased this year from £1 million to £8 million with each of the innovations selected for the second round of the scheme being evidence-based, having cost-saving benefits and an emphasis on providing solutions to key challenges. In this feature article, Primary Care Business Manager, Deborah Bellamy, explains what the project was designed to do, outlines some of the innovations and potential benefits for general practice.

Led by NHS England, the NIA is delivered in partnership with 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) including UCL Partners. It is envisaged the accelerator will help to meet the commitment set out the Five Year Forward View. This was initially launched in July 2015 with the principal objective of creating the right environment to change and modify the culture and speed up implementation of pioneering new solutions, and for proven innovations to be adopted faster and more systematically throughout the NHS.

It is hoped NIA will ultimately enhance patient care by adoption of cost effective, promising new treatments and technologies. Each innovation focuses on delivering solutions to key challenges facing the NHS, including improved prevention of ill health, better management of long-term conditions and prompt disease intervention.

Last year, one of the components encompassed was a national facility, linking those who wished to be involved with appropriate studies in dementia research. This incorporated an entire hospital digital platform enabling clinical assessments of patients, observations and handovers to be undertaken electronically.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director, who created the programme, said: “With rising demand and escalating costs, innovation is not an option but a necessity if we are to build a sustainable NHS. The innovations selected for this programme have the potential to deliver better value for the taxpayer whilst making patient interactions with the NHS safer and more personal.”

Sore throat test and treat scheme

For general practices, some of the innovations could have an impact on decreasing demand for appointments. With an estimated of 1.2 million GP appointments presently used by patients with sore throat symptoms, the sore throat test and treat scheme will comprise of a community pharmacy service where patients are able to walk-in rather than pre-booking appointments. Patients will be tested to ascertain if they need antibiotics or not so appropriate treatment and advice can be given by the pharmacist.

Initially launched as a pilot project in 2014, the Boots UK sore throat test and treat service has been able to support the diagnosis of bacterial infection by use of a rapid antigen test, which can identify group A streptococci obtaining results in five minutes. If tested positive, treatment options included supply of antibiotics without the need to see a GP. In the pilot, patients paid £7.50 for the test and £10 for “antibiotics if required”.

Further information is needed from NHS England to clarify whether these costs will remain when the scheme is rolled out more widely and whether community pharmacists will be paid to deliver the service.

In August of this year, the Community Pharmacy Forward View report stated the role of pharmacies should be “radically enhanced” and this moves some way toward further developing their role.

In addition, DrDoctor is an online and text-based service that allows patients to confirm, cancel, and change bookings digitally hence helping reduce the demands on the practice receptionists.

Epilepsy care scheme

Another new programme includes a scheme for patients with epilepsy. It is estimated the NHS spends £1.5 billion per year on epilepsy care which is one of the top 10 causes of death for those under the age of 70 and the third main cause of maternal deaths in the UK. EpSMon comprises a preventive self-management tool enabling patients with epilepsy to monitor their wellbeing and have the information needed for them to know when to seek medical support for their condition. It is hoped this could result in reduced numbers of deaths of people with epilepsy and have a significant impact on the personal and financial costs of epilepsy through reductions in deaths and decreased A&E attendance.

More innovations

Further programmes include:

  • Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM): This model of care incorporates a collaborative approach with a specialist, trained police officer working within community mental health teams to mentor, encourage and support some of the most challenging, complex and high-risk service users.

  • OBH Outcomes Platform, which facilitates commissioners and providers to identify baselines for specific outcomes, set improvement routes and monitor particular outcomes which is specific to local populations on a monthly basis.

  • Coordinate my care is a web-based IT platform facilitating digital, multidisciplinary urgent care planning for end-of-life care for a more cohesive approach.

  • ARTEMUS-ICS supports community teams to identify patients and help stop them from being admitted to hospital through earlier detection and intervention through a data focused population health intelligence platform.

  • Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) aims to reduce risk of post-operative pulmonary complication by preparing patients and their carers/families pre-operatively and prior to their recovery from major surgery.

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, stated: “Necessity is the mother of invention, and health care worldwide is now fizzing with smart innovation. In the NHS we’re now taking practical action to develop and fast track these new techniques into mainstream patient care.”

In addition to NIA, NHS England announced six medtech improvements which will have a faster national uptake under the new Innovation and Technology tariff. Medtech devices and apps will, for the first time, be included under NHS national payment rules hastening implementation.

The Innovation and Technology tariff will help reduce issues experienced by clinicians and innovators in attaining uptake and coverage across the NHS. It will eliminate the need for numerous local price negotiations and assure automatic reimbursement when an approved innovation is used. In conjunction, it will facilitate NHS England to negotiate national “bulk buy” price discounts on behalf of hospitals, GPs and patients.

The cost of six of the selected innovations for 2017/18 will be directly funded through NHS England who will then evaluate the impact of the Innovation and Technology tariff in improving patient outcomes and better efficiency across the NHS. It is anticipated the number of innovations will increase in future years, through a broader scheme designed in collaboration with the NHS, industry and AHSNs.

Further information can be found on NHS England website, available at