Twin approach gives NHS the opportunity to build on innovation
When we talk about the future of healthcare, many of us will reflect on how seismic an impact Covid-19 had on our lives, a narrative played out across the globe that continues to this day.
On one hand, the significant challenges we face around healthcare, which were exacerbated during the pandemic, are daunting; on the other we see how innovation can help us address these challenges. Indeed, we showed during Covid that we could innovate to solve one of the greatest societal challenges the world had ever faced.
Across the UK, the National Health Service (NHS), established 75 years ago with a founding principle that everyone should have access to healthcare based on an individual’s health needs, not their ability to pay, remains under extreme pressure. We’ve all seen the headlines around waiting lists, strikes, general disillusionment from frontline staff, and the rest.
In Scotland, in spite of the pessimistic headlines, we have an action plan in place which, I believe, gives us room for optimism. The twinning of Techscaler with NHS Innovation Hubs around the country is the foundation, a base from which we are bringing the NHS and tech start-ups together, with a view to innovation dramatically improving efficiencies and outputs.
It is what Mark Logan, chief entrepreneurial adviser to the Scottish Government, describes as “industrialising innovation in the NHS”. In September in Edinburgh, Logan was joined by Dame Professor Anna Dominiczak, chief scientist (health) for the Scottish Government and regius professor medicine at Glasgow University, to discuss how this partnership has the potential to bring about lasting and effective change.
With a panel and audience comprised of clinicians and healthcare professionals, academics, and start-up founders, including from our own Techscaler membership, the energy in the room was palpable, and valuable conversations and exchanges took place on stage and during the related networking sessions. Dominiczak has written for Futurescot about the need for the NHS to adopt more of a start-up mindset, and to be more entrepreneurial in its approach.
It’s a classic win-win: the NHS wins by innovating faster, and start-ups have greater success, with all the associated societal and economic benefits that flow from working much closer together. As Dominiczak says, if we are to genuinely affect change, we must involve the people who are directly involved in the delivery of healthcare. Change is never easy, there will be barriers to break down, but the prize is too important not to do everything we can to shift the dial.
At CodeBase, and through the Techscaler programme, we see the considerable healthtech talent in Scotland, start-ups who are raising funding and going onto commercial success, domestically and on the international scene. We need this flywheel to keep spinning, and greater collaboration across the ecosystem is absolutely integral.
Clinicians and medical professionals have the truest perspective of life out on the healthcare coalface, and know which changes are most needed. It makes sense to connect them with tech founders and teams who can help them translate their knowledge and experience into building and iterating software and hardware solutions.
Our university sector holds incredible human capital and innovation talent, the more we can harness this strength, and grow the associated pipeline of spin-outs and partnerships, the better. The investor community plays a central role too, backing high potential companies on their journeys to product-market-fit and commercialisation.
Successful founders can help the next generation of healthtech companies make the grade, we must use their experience and know-how, and feed it back into the system. As an institution, the NHS knows it must innovate, some within the NHS will move quicker than others, while some will fall behind the curve, but there is a feeling that the momentum for change is very real. That should be encouraging for all of us.