As Imperial College Health Partner’s interim Chair, Andrew George, shares his reflections on innovation in health.  

Innovation in health is a vital issue for everyone. We all know that we cannot continue as we are, using sticking plasters to bridge gaps and make things work for the moment. The demographic changes and increasing health issues such as obesity makes that option unaffordable. However, more importantly we are letting down the people we serve if we do not find better ways to help them stay healthy and, when they do get ill, improve the way in which we care for them.

Innovation comes in many forms; from new approaches to treatment, often invented in our universities but also by industry, to taking good ideas that others have, adapting and implementing them for our circumstances. We also need to work out better ways of doing things with what we already have available.

However, innovation in health is notoriously difficult for a variety of well evidenced reasons including comprehension of a problem, working across multi-disciplines and the inevitable vested interests of individuals and organisations that need to be aligned.

Over the last few years ICHP has developed substantial expertise in this area. They have learnt what can work and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work too.  ICHP has a cadre of individuals who are very skilled at all aspects of healthcare innovation and can help to make change happen.

As the new Interim Chair of ICHP, I have been immersing myself in ICHP’s innovation successes and the strong demonstrable impact on the people that really matter – the 2.4 million inhabitants of North West London. In particular, but far from limited to:

  • ICHP’s considerable strengths of working with members on delivering outcomes-based commissioning and integrated care, even being recognised as a national leader in this area with a place on the Health Systems Support Framework
  • The Business Intelligence team with their invaluable ability in using data to understand complex health issues seen through the first of its kind Suspicion of Sepsis Insight Dashboard launched by Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
  • To their growing presence in the research space with their Discover Research Platform seeking to address research challenges in North West London for both patients and researchers.

There are some things that we need to do better at, for example, providing more clarity to our members about what we do and how we add value and this is a key priority to address over the next few months.  I am also keen to help people who are not familiar with the acronym laden language of the NHS to navigate the complex landscape necessary to do research and bring innovation and improvement to healthcare. We, in the system, may know what ICHP, AHSN, AHSC, STP, CRN, CLARHC etc. all stand for, and the distinct roles that that they perform, but most people in the NHS, academia and industry do not have a clue. We need to be able to tell the story of how to do research and bring innovation to the NHS more clearly so that we ourselves are not adding barriers to success.

I am really looking forward to working in the ICHP team, our partner organisations, and with our colleagues in London, the UK and internationally. I’m impressed by our ICHP organisational culture, ethos and the desire to learn; there is a real sense that our impact is taking off, and the future is going to be exciting.