Innovate to improve health outcomes

June 1, 2017

A new report from an independent think-tank finds that the UK is well-placed to innovate to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. It says that just seven health innovations could save the NHS £18.5bn and the social care sector £6.3bn between 2015-2030.

However, it warns that the UK is not doing enough with the tools at its disposal, and a failure to innovate will see rising healthcare spending lead to a deficit worse than that caused by the financial crisis.

The report from the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK), supported by EY has found that whilst the UK is well-placed to innovate to improve health outcomes and reduce costs, the UK is often not doing enough with the tools at its disposal.

With the NHS committed to achieving efficiency savings of £22bn through productivity gains of 2-3% between 2015-2020, Towards affordable healthcare: Why effective innovation is key explores how health care innovations currently employed at home and abroad could increase productivity and reduce costs.

The report showcases seven outstanding global and UK-based innovations with a strong evidence base of demonstrable success and calculates the savings that could be achieved by implementing them across the UK. Home-grown innovations include:

  • The UK’s Memory First Project, an integrated dementia service run by a consortium of GPs across Staffordshire. Savings, if working methods are applied nationally, could be up to £38m between 2019-2030.
  • Manchester Royal Infirmary’s programme of providing the training and equipment to perform home dialysis. Savings, if programme is applied nationally, could be up to £5.6bn between 2014-2030.

The report concludes however that the UK is often not doing enough with the tools at its disposal to implement such innovations. Social care is underfunded and fragmented, which has consequences also for NHS costs, and funding mechanisms within the health system can often discourage innovation; there continues to be a slow uptake in the UK of new drugs and treatments, with adoption speed varying across the country.

Sally-Marie Bamford, Research and Strategy Director at ILC-UK said, 'Whilst the UK has a strong history of innovation in the field of healthcare, the UK is at a crossroads. We have world-leading higher education and research institutions, and some of the most cutting-edge health tech start-ups are emerging from the UK. However, social care has for too long played second fiddle to the NHS, and a financially unsustainable model of adult social care has a knock-on effect in terms of NHS sustainability.

'Within the NHS, too many funding mechanisms still do not reward or encourage innovation, with payments too often based on output and not outcome, and Clinical Commissioning Group funding regulations discouraging the bold moves needed to create long-term cost savings, whilst still maintaining high levels of quality.

'As one of the largest components of age-related public spending, healthcare is at the forefront of the challenge of ageing. Towards affordable healthcare: Why effective innovation is key demonstrates why supporting long run productivity growth in healthcare is likely to be one, if not the, most important element in ensuring a sustainable older society.'


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