Will the NHS put their money where their mouth is?

The NHS Innovation Accelerator Program was launched in 2015. We learnt then that it was all about finding innovation and making sure that it is implemented quickly in the NHS. The key phrase in the launch was:

“The innovations will help to prevent diseases, speed up diagnosis, improve safety and efficiency of services and increase patient participation in decision making, self-management and research. This will lead to better health outcomes and a more sustainable NHS.”

In 2016 the Strep A sore throat test and treat service was announced within the program as a community pharmacy based service where patients with a sore throat could be diverted from General Practice and could be tested to see whether they had a Strep Ainfection and would benefit from antibiotics. When a GP sees a patient with a sore throat they use their clinical judgement as to whether it is bacterial or viral and whether they need an antibiotic or not. The community pharmacies within this program would be able to make a diagnosis based on the presence of Strep A in the throat and take appropriate action. It is critical to use antibiotics only in patients with a proven infection. The program was hoped to affect 1.2million GP appointments over a period where winter pressures are extreme.

We know a little about the OSOM test used in the published feasibility study that says it is easy to use, has very high sensitivity and selectivity and it is possible to run a service including this test. Strep A related diseases such as scarlet fever and invasive strep A are at an all-time high. The service is just as much about reducing symptoms in individual patients as it is in reducing transmission of infection.

We also know that much of the NHS is under great pressure and we are starting to worry about unmanageable winter pressures. NHS England has launched its GP forward View and have committed to putting resources behind reducing pressures on General Practice. And the DH will spend a lot of money supporting a ‘Pharmacy First’ campaign.

The innovation network has been talking to CCGs, GPs and community pharmacies and have plans to introduce the service more widely (nationally) aiming for a launch on September 1st 2017.

So this is where we are at. Community pharmacy wants to do it – GPs want community pharmacy to do it as it might remove 1.2million appointments over winter. And patients will benefit from choice and convenience. But will it happen? It might all be down to money.

If the innovation accelerator program actually means anything to Mr Stevens, Sir Bruce or Mr Hunt they should remind CCGs that adopting innovation is not an ‘option’, but a responsibility.


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