NHS and Government back AHSNs to continue to lead innovation, under new name

The Government and NHS England have today confirmed their intention to relicense England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) under the revised badge of ‘Health Innovation Networks’ (HINs), to reflect their key role in supporting development and spread of innovation across health services.

Following yesterday’s (25 May) Life Sciences Council meeting, it was formally announced today that NHS England would commission the Health Innovation Networks for five years, until 2028.

Set up in 2013 by NHS England to act as innovation arms of the NHS, AHSNs work locally and nationally to support the spread of all types of innovation within the NHS, from new technologies to ways of working and service improvements. Under the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Science, Innovation and Technologies’ joint commission – the Office for Life Sciences (OLS) – AHSNs also provide bespoke support to innovators to accelerate promising innovations from development to adoption, and boost economic growth.

AHSNs began working collectively as the national AHSN Network from 2018, when the first set of national programmes were adopted. Since then, AHSNs have delivered 11 national adoption and spread programmes and supported the rapid uptake of 28 NICE-approved products. These initiatives alone have benefited more than 2.3 million patients. AHSNs have also helped to leverage investment of more than £1.8bn for UK Plc in the same timeframe.

Dr Nicola Hutchinson, Chief Executive, AHSN NENC, said: “We are extremely proud that the impact delivered by the AHSNs over the last decade has been recognised and we have been relicensed for a further five-year period, subject to a name change.

“I’d like to thank everyone that has supported us over the last ten years. We are looking forward to further strengthening our collaborative work going forward as we continue to deliver on our key priorities to reduce health inequalities, drive economic growth and support the adoption of transformational digital technologies.”

Dr Arnab Basu, Chair of the AHSN NENC, said: “It is fantastic news for the North East and North Cumbria that the AHSN NENC will continue to drive forward health innovation thanks to the five-year relicense.

“Since its inception 10 years ago, the AHSN NENC has established itself as a driving force within the vibrant health and life sciences ecosystem in the region. This will provide a solid foundation as the organisation moves into a new era as Health Innovation Network North East and North Cumbria.

“We are excited for the next five years working closely with our partners to support the development and adoption of even more transformative health and care innovations for the benefit of the people and the economy of the North East and North Cumbria.”

Samantha Allen, Chief Executive, North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: “The relicensing of the AHSNs is crucial to ensure integrated care systems are provided with the necessary support to accelerate the process of getting innovations that reflect the needs of the NHS and local communities adopted within the health system. We have a strong relationship with the AHSN NENC and we are excited for this to develop further as we continue to collaborate with the shared aim of driving health and care innovations for the benefit of the region.”

Professor Gary Ford, Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Oxford AHSN said: “It is a testament to the collective impact of the AHSNs over the past 10 years that our commissioners have issued a further licence. We welcome the opportunity and challenge this provides for our teams to identify, develop and spread innovations that meet the priorities of the NHS over the next five years.

“Under the new banner of Health Innovation Networks each organisation will continue to support local innovation and transformation working with their Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) within their region, support innovators to develop innovations to address local needs, and come together as a national network to evaluate and spread promising solutions at scale.”

“The challenges facing the NHS will only be met by widespread adoption of innovation in digital and diagnostic technology and in data to transform clinical pathways and empower patients.”

Matt Whitty, Director of Innovation, Research and Life Sciences for NHS England, said: “The Academic Health Science Networks play a key role in driving the uptake of health innovation and economic growth, enabling patients to benefit from earlier diagnosis, more effective treatments, and faster recovery.

“The renamed network will have a critical role to play in supporting the new Integrated Care Systems to adopt innovations and will be aligned to NHS priorities such as tackling health inequalities and fulfilling the Life Science’s Vision to deliver improved public services and grow the economy.”

The new licence will come into effect from 1 October 2023. More information about the roll out of the new licences, priority programmes and collaboration with NHS England and the Office for Life Sciences, will follow during the summer.