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Towards affordable healthcare: Why effective innovation is key

Historically the UK has been the driving force behind many significant health advances from the invention of the small pox vaccine to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Today the UK is considered a world leader in life sciences (pharmaceuticals, medical biotechnology and medical technology) second only to the US, boasts a fully integrated health system and is an early adopter of transformational technologies in medicine principally in informatics and genomics. However, while the UK may rank highly for innovation per se, and does manage to foster some successful innovation, the NHS has a less positive record of adopting innovation at pace and scale. Indeed, only a tiny portion of the healthcare budget is spent on diffusing new ideas and performance and yet the potential is huge.

In this report, we look at one of the crucial pieces of the jigsaw – healthcare innovation. As one of the largest components of age-related public spending, healthcare is at the forefront of the challenge of ageing. While ensuring that we have a good healthcare system that requires continual improvements in the quality of services for users, it also requires improvements in the efficiency of the system to ensure its long run survival. In this regard, this report demonstrates why supporting long run productivity growth in healthcare is likely to be one, if not the, most important ingredient in ensuring a sustainable older society. And we will demonstrate how, in the face of the challenge of ageing, the health service will need to harness transformative innovation in order to put us on an affordable footing. The status quo will simply not do.

We will explore the potential for innovation application and diffusion in health care within the UK and critically how the ‘right type’ of innovation could make health care better and cheaper, essentially doing “more with less”. Alongside the seismic challenge facing the NHS by 2020, planned efficiency
savings are not enough and therefore with such a foreboding outlook the importance of developing and disseminating innovative solutions has never been greater. In this report, we will measure the potential productivity gains to the NHS by theoretically applying at the national level some of the most promising healthcare innovations from the UK and Internationally. Now is the time to promote the roll out across the UK of some of the leading global and indeed home grown innovations, as Simon Stevens, the then incoming Chief Executive of NHS England, declared in 2014 to an audience of international health experts and business leaders:“The future is already here, just unevenly distributed”.

This report is the second in a major programme of work looking into how we can afford a sustainable older society.

In our first of the series - Creating a Sustainable 21st Century Healthcare System – we explored innovations around the world and the UK. From India to New Zealand, and the USA to Finland we identified 19 of the most original innovations covering a diverse array of age-related health challenges. This report builds on this earlier effort, exploring how specific innovations could be applied to the UK and what cost savings this could yield. In turn, such analysis leads to recommendations on how we can foster a public policy environment that is conducive to good innovation.