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Department of Health aims to drive change through tech innovation

Revamped Accelerated Access Collaborative is intended to “genuinely drive change” in NHS by identifying the best in healthtech, aligning policy and establishing testing mechanisms

High expectations are being placed on the expanded Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) to “genuinely drive change” through innovation in the NHS, a government minister has said.

Baroness Blackwood, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), discussed the department’s ambitions for the AAC’s role in bringing more tech-enabled enhancements to patients and clinicians, and said there is “little point” in focusing on innovation research if it is not spread across the health system in the short term.

“The AAC may sound like just another bureaucratic acronym, but I believe that through acting as a single umbrella organisation across the UK health innovation ecosystem, it will genuinely drive change in the NHS,” Blackwood told delegates at the Association of British HealthTech Industries’ UK Market Conference on 13 June.

As well as creating a system to identify the best new innovations that could be applied to the needs of patients and clinicians, it is hoped that the improved AAC will align innovation policy with trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), she said.

Another crucial part of the AAC remit is the creation of robust testing processes before innovations are implemented in the NHS, said Blackwood.

“Testing is particularly important for healthtech,” she added. “By testing a product in a real-world setting, innovators can generate the evidence they need to convince commissioners to adopt it.

“The combination of a healthtech funding mandate and a globally leading testing infrastructure will ensure the best new innovations get into the NHS, and to patients, faster. It is a big challenge – but one that we can deliver.”

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NHS England announced earlier this month that it will extend funding for new health treatments and tests as part of efforts to fast-track medical innovation and bring savings to the NHS.

Overseen by the AAC, the programme’s new innovations include 3D heart modelling system HeartFlow and cluster headache signal pain blocker Gammacore.

Matthew Gould, chief executive at NHSX, said one of the key strategic pillars of the digital delivery unit for the health service is a shift towards a third-party innovation ecosystem.

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