Innovation in the NHS: Supporting the Five Year Forward View

The NHS Five Year Forward View, published last October, sets out a vision for the future of the National Health Service (NHS) and how it needs to change over the next five years if it is to close the widening gaps in the health of the population, quality of care and the funding of services.

This vision was the central theme of this year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo. Hosted by the NHS, the Expo is the most significant annual health and social care event of the year, bringing together more NHS and care leaders, commissioners, clinicians, voluntary sector partners, innovators and media than any other health and care event in the UK.

A wide range of influential healthcare leaders were in attendance to explore how to turn the NHS Five Year Forward View into reality, to promote innovation within the NHS and to make important announcements. Idox was pleased to be invited to attend the event as a delegate.

Key Health Sector Announcements and Developments

Secretary of State Health Jeremy Hunt spoke on the use of technology to improve healthcare. He announced that:

  • By 2016 all patients should be able to access their own GP electronic record online in full, including blood test results, appointment records and medical histories.
  • By 2018 this record will include information from all their health and care interactions.
  • By the end of 2018 all doctors and nurses will be able to access the most up-to-date lifesaving information across GP surgeries, ambulance services and A&E departments no matter where a patient is in England.
  • By 2020 this will include the social care system as well.
  • A number of measures would be put in place to assure the security of confidential medical information.

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens launched a new five-year £5 million initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff. This initiative aims to:

  • Put into practice the commitment made in the NHS Five Year Forward View ‘to ensure the NHS as an employer sets a national example in the support it offers its own staff to stay healthy’.
  • Provide NHS staff with more access to physiotherapy, mental health therapies and healthier food at work; health checks at work for staff who are over 40 years of age; and a new nationally-specified occupational health service to help GPs suffering from burnout and stress.

NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information and Chair of the National Information Board Tim Kelsey aims to:

  • Make the NHS paper-free by 2020 and wifi available throughout the NHS (see Making the Case for a Digital NHS section below).

Key Discussion Topics Supporting the Five Year Forward View

Making the Case for a Digital NHS

‘Every patient needs a barcode.’ This provocative statement was made by Tim Kelsey, NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information and Chair of the National Information Board.  Making the case for a digital NHS, he went on to say: ‘The NHS needs to get over the idea that we can’t do technology. We are all here to think differently about how we can empower patients to take more control of their health.’

Kelsey is committed to making the NHS an open platform for innovation. This includes moving the NHS to become paper-free by 2020 as well as working on proposals to have wifi available throughout so that all healthcare professionals and patients can make better use of digital health services. The latter was discussed at length in Idox’s July blog, Digital Empowerment in the UK Health Sector.

NHS Innovation Accelerator – Embracing the Innovation Revolution

Compared to other industries, most of the NHS has been slow to embrace innovation. To address this, the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), as the name suggests, was launched in January 2015 to speed up the adoption of new inventions and new ways of working. NIA is a partnership between NHS England, the Health Foundation and the Academic Health and Science Networks (AHSNs).

This session looked at what innovations are being developed within the NHS that will benefit patients. Examples were given by EU General Manager of AliveCor and NIA Fellow Francis White. He showed the audience a device that fits on the back of a smartphone which then turns into a medical-grade ECG monitor, allowing patients to see whether they are in atrial fibrillation. He also mentioned a product which encourages children to brush their teeth for two minutes in an effort to reduce their need for dental care.

Innovating to Deliver Low Cost, High Quality Care at Scale

Are there any lessons we can learn from the international health community? Dr Devi Shetty thinks so. Dr Shetty, an internationally renowned paediatric heart surgeon, runs a network of for-profit hospitals in India that perform world-class operations at a fraction of what it would cost here.  His mission is to bring the latest advances in cardiac surgery to the lower middle class and poor, and he believes this can be done outside of India as well. He presented lessons from his work in India as a means to show how innovation can deliver high-quality, low-cost healthcare at scale. He has dramatically reduced the costs in his hospitals by scale, standardisation, more technology, and more efficient use of staff. The question is – could this be adapted in the UK and Europe?


As the plans laid out in the NHS Five Year Forward View come to fruition, Idox will continue to monitor the changes and developments within the UK health sector.

Echoing the thoughts of NHS England Chair Sir Malcolm Grant as he closed this year’s Health and Care Innovation Expo:
‘Innovation is the lifeblood of any successful industry – industries come up on the wave of innovation, but if they fail to continue innovating then they fail. Innovation is central to the goals we have over the next few years, and is woven through the NHS Five Year Forward View. We don’t innovate for the sake of innovation, we do it for the sake of change and improvement across the health system.’

By Sabra Aswani, Idox


Idox supports NHS Trusts, local government and universities in their bid for funding via a dedicated suite of funding solutions including GRANTfinder and RESEARCHconnect. For further details, please email

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