A £220m fund will be made available to encourage innovation within the NHS, Health Minister Lord Darzi announced yesterday (27 April 2009) at London's Science Museum.
England's 10 strategic health authorities (SHAs) will each receive £2m this year and £5m in each of the following four years to support frontline NHS staff in developing innovative ideas.
The cash will be invested directly into a combination of projects on the ground and at regional level. The move is designed to benefit patients directly and increase the quality of the care they receive.
SHAs will be subject to a legal duty to promote innovation and support the diffusion of innovative technologies and solutions throughout the health service. This is part of new measures set out in the Health Bill, which is currently before Parliament.
Lord Darzi said: "This announcement is a huge step forward in implementing the recommendations set out last summer in my strategy on the future of the NHS."
He said that while researching the Next Stage Review, he met numerous frontline staff who said they had a small idea that could make a huge difference.
"NHS staff have told me that accessing the funds to make ideas become reality can be a struggle and as a result, many great ideas never get realised," he said. "That is why I am delighted to announce that we now have a £220m innovation fund available to get those ideas off the bench and to patient bedsides, day centres or GP surgeries."
Lord Darzi cited the "major threat" of the swine flu outbreak as an example of challenges to healthcare staff that would require initiative to respond effectively.
He also said that longer life expectancies and an increasingly elderly population would also pose challenges to healthcare, and said that innovative solutions would be needed here.
To highlight this point, Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio and one of this country's top inventors, presented his new invention – a "wind-up" walking stick that emits a light at the top to aid visibility, and also enables users to pick things up off the ground without bending down.
Mr Baylis said that the capacity for invention "is in every one of us", and that the innovation fund would help everyone working in the NHS to come forward and share their ideas.
Sarah Banham, a member of the national implementation team for reinvigorating practice-based commissioning, who manages a practice that came third in the country for patient satisfaction, said the innovation fund could inspire practice teams to think about redesigning service pathways.
"This is for anybody who has an idea about doing something differently," she said. She said managers who had ideas for service redesign should present these to their PBC cluster and then approach their PCT.
Ruth Carnall, chief executive of NHS London, told the launch event that PCTs should not be risk-averse. She said that the innovation fund should encourage PCTs to "create an environment that helps people take some risks".
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Yes – I think this is great idea. My suggested innovation would be for every trust to provide a community chest that would support many small and creative ideas initiated by frontline staff" – Jon Harvey, location withheld