Rob Berry, Head of Innovation, KSS AHSN

The recent briefing published by the Nuffield Trust “Falling short” suggests those describing the adoption of new technology by the NHS as ‘slow’, would benefit from taking a different perspective. That new perspective would help shift thinking away from ‘barriers and culture’ towards ‘expectation setting’ by acknowledging the inherent and unavoidable disappointment that arises when attempting to satisfy everyone all the time. Well that’s how I read it, and therein lies the rub.  ‘Slow’ is a matter of perspective.

Assessing the Lead and Follow

‘Slow”, in the context of improving patient care, outcome and experience, is often used to infer failure and therefore worthy of blame.  With the absence of clarity as to who is the NHS, and therefore who should account for being too slow, it has become a default setting for ‘the NHS’ whatever that may mean, to be cited as at fault.  This briefing however takes a step towards clarity on who may be responsible. Whilst the briefing states, “it is unclear who should be responsible for adopting innovation”, it also states that “the money promised from the Government falls significantly short” (of the amount the AAR suggested was necessary….).

The briefing also refers to what may be perceived as ‘too fast’.  The absence of ‘good enough’ evidence, supply-side and top down orientation and a suggestion that the NHS needs to consolidate, all suggest that the adoption expectations are getting ahead of themselves or ‘too fast’.

Finding your rhythm

Whatever the right amount of investment is, the perceptions (of too slow or too fast) will not be exclusively of any one interest group – industry, NHS staff, the users of NHS services, senior policy makers or politicians.  All parties have common interest in better outcomes, better health and care services and better technologies.

So at the working interface between the NHS and industry, both will acknowledge slow-slow, but remain committed to quick-quick.  Although views may be different in and between those interest groups, it is more likely that the too ‘slow’ perspective will endure. And so the dance goes on.

It takes two to Foxtrot

The briefing goes on to suggest that the solution may lie in novel collaborations.   Referring back to the question it raises about the quantum and nature of the solution offered, if it is only constructed in and around an estimate of a cash injection to address ‘the rate of adoption’ via programmes such as the innovation technology tariff or wider innovation programmes, this may only address the equivalent of stepping on each other’s toes.  So perhaps the solution lies not there but in the need to change the tune.

I believe the briefing should stimulate better discussions at all levels in and between different sectors.
What do you think? We would like to hear.
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