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Top experts bid to remove ‘fear’ and jumpstart NHS digital advance

Move aims to erase fear of risk and punishment holding back NHS digital innovation


An expert panel of leading entrepreneurs, CEOs and senior NHS procurement chiefs are set to unveil a bid to jumpstart digital innovation in the NHS today (Thursday 3rd March).

The panel has created Further, Faster: Accelerating the pace of digitising the NHS, available at, to break down the barriers to collaboration between SMEs and the NHS and create future opportunities. Supported by Guys & St Thomas Charity, members include HSCIC CEO Andy Williams, Yeovil Foundation Trust commercial director Simon Lilley, NHS England Digital Services head Helen Rowntree and Dr Foster co-founder Jake Arnold Forster.

The initiative, drawn together by ZPB Associates, aims to:

  1. Help the NHS jumpstart its bid to become a digitally enabled health service after being allocated £1 billion in the November 2015 Budget to spend on technology over the next five years.

  2. Help NHS trusts create ‘digital boards’ which welcome and lead rather than block innovation.

  3. Help trusts meet the national NHS procurement target of 25% contracts going to SMEs – an FOI request revealed that fewer than one in ten NHS trusts are recording data against this target

  4. Stop the brain drain of innovative UK companies heading overseas as put-off by slow uptake in NHS

The resource includes tips by health tech innovators for SMEs who want to work with the NHS, as well as advice and lessons for NHS boards and leadership teams who are looking to adopt health tech solutions. It also has case studies, insights and opinions pieces from SMEs who have learned the hard way and put forward their recommendations on topics such as procurement, relationship-building and collaboration.

The Government has set an overall target of 25% procurement spend with SMEs, with the Department of Health’s SME Action Plan committed to an 18% target of their own. With very few gathering this data, it is currently impossible to measure increases in the number of contracts going to SMEs.

ZPB’s chief executive Zoe Bedford, said:

“Accelerating the adoption and spread of technology-based innovation is as much a necessity for the financial health of the system as it is for improving health. We are convinced of the crucial role small and medium size tech businesses can play in helping to create an NHS fit for the demands of 21st century patients, citizens and employees.  It is frustrating that some of the best British companies are looking to relocate abroad as they’ve found the NHS environment too challenging.” “This online resource is packed with hard won practical advice and examples from both SMEs and the NHS on how they have navigated the system and broke down barriers to embed new innovation which makes a difference”

Head of Innovation and Research at Kent Surrey and Sussex Academic Health Science Network, Rob Berry, said:

“Good deals between the NHS and SMEs will always depend on both parties working together to recognise and manage some inevitable tensions. “With digital technologies there are major opportunities to re-invent, adjust or tailor to suit the local context, without diminishing the potential benefits. Therefore there are major opportunities to collaborate.”

Oliver Smith, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, said:

“It is obvious that digital technology has a huge potential to improve the NHS but just because it is obvious doesn’t mean it will happen easily. By supporting this honest inquiry, we hope we can accelerate change – giving the NHS and SMEs practical tips on how to bring new ideas to life.

In Lambeth and Southwark, where the Charity works, we have only just begun to scratch the surface and see the difference digital health can make to people’s lives and hope these resources will lead to many more opportunities in the future.”


Notes to Editors    

  1. Founded in 2009, ZPB Ltd is a young and dynamic business that brings together expertise in marketing and communications, strategy and policy, data and design. They specialise in healthcare – and healthcare alone. ZPB is committed to improving the delivery and provision of healthcare. ZPB advises a number of organisations of all sizes in launching products and services. Clients include big and small businesses, as well as not-for-profits and NHS organisations. Clients include Healthcare at Home Ltd, HCA, The Cambridge Health Network, inHealth, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Outcomes Based Healthcare, Yeovil NHS Foundation Trust, The Open Public Services Network and The AHSN Network. Their extensive network gives them unique insight into the healthcare environment from the perspective of each sector and allows them to engage effectively with opinion-formers and stakeholders on behalf of clients.

  2. Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is an independent charitable foundation which supports new ideas to tackle major health and care challenges in Lambeth and Southwark. It helps identify and act on key issues in health and care, and supports radical, lasting change for those who live, work or are treated in the area. The Charity partners with others who also strive to improve local health and healthcare, and has an especially close relationship with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Thanks to its endowment, donations and other assets, the Charity provides funding, invests in ideas and brings people together to share, learn and collaborate. The Charity was established over 500 years ago to support better health and care locally. Its unique history and assets empower it to respond to the many healthcare demands of today and invest in the health of future generations. Find out more at and follow @GSTTCharity on Twitter.

  3. The expert panel includes NHS England, The Office of Life Sciences, The Health and Social Care Information Centre, as well as healthcare delivery organisations such as Yeovil District Hospital NHSFT, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHSFT and The Royal Free London NHSFT and a number of leading SMEs.

Case Studies – a variety are available

Ieso Digital Health

Online cognitive behavioural therapy that’s having a power impact on access to mental health treatment.


An app that helps monitor hypertension and kidney dialysis, transforming patient-centred care in East Kent Hospitals.

The Learning Clinic

Their VitalPAC system acts as an electronic personal assistant for clinicians and other staff, making information instantly available at bed, ward and whole hospital level.

The panel includes:

  1. Andy Williams Chief Executive, Health and Social Care Information Centre

  2. Tom Whicher Chief Executive, DrDoctor

  3. Chris Jessop Chief Executive, Expert 24

  4. Ollie Smith Director of Strategy and Innovation, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity

  5. Ian Abbs Medical Director, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

  6. Jenny Blundell General Manager, Women’s Services, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

  7. Jonathan Cutler UK Advisor, Health 2.0

  8. Barnaby Perks Chief Executive, Ieso Digital Health

  9. Rob Berry Head of Innovation and Research, Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN

  10. Felix Jackson Founder and Medical Director, medDigital

  11. Jake Arnold-Forster NHS and SME Commercial Advisor [Chair]

  12. Helen Rowntree Head of Digital Services, NHS England

  13. Harpreet Sood Senior Fellow, Chair and Chief Executive’s Office, NHS England

  14. Hilary Rowell Associate Director, ZPB Associates

  15. Tracey Watson Head of Commercial and Partners, NHS England

  16. Catherine Page Senior Policy Advisor, Office for Life Sciences

  17. Michael Brooks Chief Medical Officer, PatientSource

  18. Peter Greengross Medical Director, The Learning Clinic

  19. Alex Kafetz Chief Operating Officer, ZPB and member of National Information Board

  20. Jonty Heaversedge Chair, NHS Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group

  21. Bruce Hellman Chief Executive, uMotif

  22. Parker Moss Chief Technology and Transformation Officer, Virgin Care

  23. Simon Lilley Commercial Director, Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


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