By Éanna O Lochlainn
The NHS Providers’ and King’s Fund analysis of the Comprehensive Spending Review’s impact on the NHS make for interesting reading, but neither have highlighted the enormous political and financial capital that is being invested by the current government in the technology and innovation agenda.
Five billion pounds has been earmarked for health research and development over the next five years to fund key priorities, such as the 100,000 genomes project and research into anti-microbial resistance. £150 million is to be allocated for a new dementia research institute and £400 million over an eight-year period for a new ‘Science Hub’, with £1 billion for technology to integrate patient records across the health and social care system.
It speaks of encouraging long-term partnerships between the NHS and the private sector to modernise buildings, equipment and services, and deliver efficiencies, especially where these partnerships support the upgrade of diagnostic capabilities and the development of new models of care. Interestingly, it echoes the words of Sir William Wells in the ZPB’s 2013 report for Sodexo, The Power of Partnership: How to Seize the Potential. A Practical Guide to Forming Cross-Sector Partnerships in Healthcare, in which he states: “Collaboration and creativity in the interests of both patients and taxpayers is at a premium. New service models will have to be procured and must embrace the best skills, knowledge and capacity that are available within and beyond the NHS.”
The HSJ reported that at a reception for the NHS England Vanguard projects held at Number 10 two days before the CSR was published, David Cameron promised to protect these “pioneers from arrows in their backs.”
Seasoned Whitehall observers will recognise shades of Harold Wilson’s White Heat of Technology speech here, with its promise that Britain would be no place for restrictive practices or outdated methods. As always, it is the delivery of the policy intent, (or operationalisation if you must), which will determine the outcome.
What is clear is that the Academic Health Science Networks, with their scope for regional testing and national roll out, remain in pole position to play a key role in delivering on this agenda.