Two approaches to innovation in health

Two events I went to the other week, both dealing with innovation in health (care): one a meeting for the government’s Accelerated Access Review (AAR), the other a Nesta day on “People Powered Health”. And two rather different approaches to innovation.

The Government first. AAR is a big thing, on how new treatments, medicines, and devices could more easily be brought into the NHS. I attended this final stakeholder session as a “health startup” representative, mostly just listening to the discussions, and quietly shaking my head. Just one example of the many issues needing attention that someone raised is the Cancer Drugs Fund – how is that existing monster going to fit in with any new processes and organisations? A government minister gave a pep talk, said how excited he was, and concluded that he is looking forward to significant progress in the next six month. Someone sat next to me quietly noted that with the time it takes to complete the NHS budget processes, not much can possibly change in the next 18 months at least. Not exactly agile…

The Nesta thing then. A whole day of presentations, most pretty interesting. One of my highlights was a talk titled “From South Sudan to West Essex”, or how the Rapid Results Institute’s methods born in the developing world have made a big difference for local NHS services in the UK. Basically it was all about empowering people to do the best in their jobs, setting ambitious targets, and being willing to ask the patients what they would prefer to happen. And there was more on topics like peer support (e.g. Peers for Progress are doing interesting work).

And interestingly, several people said at different times and in different ways that randomised controlled trials are not the only – and not always the best – method of finding things out. Which should be obvious, but clearly it isn’t, so good that it gets said. I will have much more to say on this topic, but on another day!


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