Nine out of 10 NHS employees in Scotland believe innovation must be ‘at the heart’ of efforts to improve patient services and tackle Covid-related backlogs, according to a new survey.

Independent researched commissioned by innovation body InnoScot Health found that most health service staff want to be part of the vital drive for making ground-breaking ideas a reality.

The poll revealed that 71 per cent of healthcare workers have offered ideas on how to enhance the delivery of healthcare on one or more occasion.

It was further found that almost two thirds (64 per cent) of NHS staff consider themselves to be innovators “to some extent” and say they have ideas to improve the NHS, which is currently facing one of its most difficult winters. One in six respondents specifically believe “to a great extent” that they are innovators.

The survey provides a snapshot of health and social care staff views. It was administered via online questionnaire and the data collected between 3 October and 4 November 2022 with a total of 602 eligible responses received.

Staff are primarily motivated to innovate for the wellbeing of patients and their own colleagues, the survey also discovered. More than nine out of 10 respondents believe that three factors in particular would motivate them to propose an innovative idea, namely:

  • To drive efficiency (95 per cent)
  • To make a difference to patients (97 per cent)
  • To make working lives easier for themselves and their colleagues (98 per cent)

Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Scotland’s Chief Scientist for Health, said: “The challenges facing NHS Scotland are well reported, however as we work towards the modernisation of NHS Scotland, this survey makes it clear that staff are a major part of the solution.

“It shows that there is an undoubted desire to innovate from within in order to improve outcomes for both patients and those working within health and social care. It underlines our belief that the NHS is a great driver of innovation – dedicated, hard-working staff understand the issues and how we can help solve them. 

“As leaders, I believe that to rise to current challenges – and look beyond them too – we need to support and encourage fresh NHS ideas, while strengthening partnerships across the sector. More and better collaboration, with targeted and expert support, will help get innovation into patients’ hands quicker.

“This survey shows that now is absolutely the right time to do that; to really utilise the vast enthusiasm, talent and depth of healthcare expertise that we have here in Scotland, take the workforce’s most transformative, innovative ideas and accelerate their development and ultimate adoption back into the NHS.”

NHS Scotland innovators can share in revenue returns from successful innovations, but the survey indicates that those who have worked in NHS Scotland for more than 20 years are least likely to identify money as a significant motivation to propose an idea (30 per cent).

Further examination of the survey data indicates that those who have worked with NHS Scotland for less than five years are least likely to express an idea (61 per cent), but this increases with length of service (78 per cent for those who have worked in NHS Scotland for more than 20 years).

Graham Watson, executive chair of InnoScot Health, said: “Over the past 20 years, InnoScot Health has worked with nurses, surgeons, paramedics and many more. A strong pipeline of new ideas has been delivered into service through our enduring commitment to supporting innovation. The importance which staff clearly place on the role of innovation within the NHS is hugely encouraging.

“Our survey has illuminated a positive picture of support for transformative NHS-led innovation.

“We have now arrived at a key juncture for NHS Scotland amid significant winter challenges – and it must be considered an opportune time to leverage the promise of pandemic-inspired new ways of working.

“The NHS workforce message is clear – we can and want to innovate at this pivotal time for healthcare.”