16 June 2016

Saving lives and helping to create sustainable health and care: AHSNs demonstrate collective impact

In its 2016 Impact Report published this week, The AHSN Network demonstrates the impact that AHSNs have made collectively to address gaps in health and wellbeing; care and quality; and finance and efficiency as outlined in the Five Year Forward View.

The 15 AHSNs in England have a clear remit to connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, third sector and industry to help create the right conditions to improve health and generate economic growth. They achieve this by, for example, creating partnerships that enable a faster and greater spread of innovation and by fostering opportunities for industry to work effectively with the NHS.

Highlights of the collective impact made in 2015/16 by the AHSN Network are:

  • 3 million more patients benefiting from innovation through the NHS Innovation Accelerator
  • 365 strokes prevented; saving lives, reducing disability and saving almost £8.5m to the NHS and social care
  • 33,000 more patients are self-managing conditions through the use of Flo Simple Telehealth
  • 500 new products or services introduced to the NHS
  • £20 million funding for small businesses to develop innovative products via SBRI Healthcare

The report reveals the depth and breadth of the work both by individual AHSNs and as collaborations to address issues of national importance. The following examples demonstrate how individual AHSNs have actively shared outcomes and methodologies to expand for the greater benefit of whole populations.

Speeding innovation in the NHS

The AHSN Network has collaborated to successfully support the scaling of innovation across the NHS through the NHS Innovation Accelerator. In just the first nine months of this pioneering programme, three million patients have begun to access new apps, safety devices, on-line networks, and a host of other new technologies and services thanks to the support of the AHSN Network.

More than 60 NHS organisations are using one or more of 17 new innovations which aim to improve care by, for example, reducing clinical incidents, helping people self-care and linking up patients with others or with research schemes.

AliveCor is one of these innovations supported by five AHSNs. It is a mobile heart monitor used via an app on a smartphone that allows the user to quickly access, track and analyse their heart’s health. Heart activity data can be relayed to healthcare professionals to inform diagnosis and treatment planning.

Francis White, NIA Fellow and EU General Manager, AliveCor said: “The support I am receiving from the Academic Health Science Networks is invaluable. I’m not aware of any other organisations that work together nationally and use their individual local networks to help industry innovators open doors in this way.”

Avoiding strokes

Preventing strokes has been a major focus for most of the country’s AHSNs and collectively the work has resulted in the avoidance of 365 strokes during the year. This has been achieved through supporting primary care clinicians to provide appropriate anticoagulation medication to people with atrial fibrillation (a major cause of stroke), introducing digital health technology for patients to self-monitor heart rhythm, and through improving data. In addition to lives saved and reduced disability, this work has saved almost £8.5 million in net costs across health and social care. Much greater gains could be achieved through scaling this work nationally, with estimates of 12,000 strokes that could be avoided each year.

Empowering patients to self-manage conditions

AHSNs are supporting innovations and service changes that empower patients to take a more active role in their healthcare. This results in a better experience and improved outcomes for patients and a more efficient service for the NHS. One hugely successful example is Flo Simple Telehealth, which encourages patients to manage their own health and wellbeing. It works by allowing patients to text their vital statistics for a whole range of conditions including diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from their mobile phone and gives healthcare professionals access to the data in real time. The system will alert the clinician if a patient’s reading is higher or lower than expected enabling them to adjust treatment as required in line with approved clinical pathways. It has been widely adopted across the UK, reaching over 70 health and social care organisations with 33,000 patients registered.

The full AHSN Network impact report details additional examples and the progress made during the year against the themes in the Five Year Forward View. It also demonstrates how AHSNs are contributing towards economic growth.

Dr Liz Mear, Chair of the AHSN Network said: “Individual AHSNs deliver new innovations into the NHS, improving patient experience and enabling economic growth for our regions. Together, AHSNs are making a huge collective impact for the wider health system, united by the common goal of making care better for patients.”

Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman, NHS England said: “I am encouraged by the individual and collective work of the AHSNs since their inception, and their achievements to date. I look forward to their continuing development and contribution to the priorities identified in the Forward View.”

The impact report can be viewed and downloaded via The AHSN Network website and short video introducing the report can be viewed here.