What are the AHSNs for?

Written by Seamus O'Neill on 2nd February 2015

The AHSNs are still relatively new within the NHS landscape. In addition, we cover a broad spectrum of activity – we support initiatives ranging from promoting the uptake of innovation that drives health improvements through to mobilising the NHS and academia to drive growth and job creation in our local economy.

That’s not always the easiest message to get across: a tough elevator pitch as they say. The challenge for us is to be clear about what we do.

It is our intention that we are known for and understood by the value we add. It is only by adding value for stakeholders within the system that we can make a meaningful and sustained contribution.

There is emerging evidence that we are doing this. I’ll give you a few examples:

System-wide collaboration: A year ago, we part-funded a piece of work on Familial Hypercholesterolaemia sponsored initially by our CCGs and supported by the British Heart Foundation. The project has benefited from formative and ongoing input from the Cardiovascular Strategic Clinical Network and from diagnostic expertise from the Newcastle Hospitals Lipidologists and Newgene Geneticists. The National Clinical Director (Cardiac) in NHS England Cardiovascular lead, Prof Huon Gray, attended the launch event and described the collaboration as ‘an exemplar of effective joint working’.

The project has been a fantastic example of system integration. It will deliver both clinical benefit to families and cost savings for years to come.

Creating a safe space: We now have a very active and influential Medicines Optimisation Group. It is region-wide includes all the relevant professional pharmacy stakeholders plus GPs and patients. We have been supporting the group for a year now and it has been described by one member, slightly tongue-in-cheek, as ‘a really good excuse to work together on things that matter to us’.  We are happy with that as an endorsement of what we are trying to do. The scope and impact of the work the group is doing is mounting.

The Group is led by Neil Watson, Director of Pharmacy in Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS FT.

Brokering access to NHS expertise for SMEs: We have been working for some time with PolyPhotonix, a rapidly growing SME based in Sedgefield. They have world leading expertise in printed electronics and their application in Bio-Photonics. As well as supporting their work on clinical trials of the Noctura 400 sleep mask which may revolutionise the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, clinicians across the region have been advising PolyPhotonix on potential applications of printed electronics and phototherapy technology in other clinical disciplines. Chief Executive Richard Kirk said:

‘We have worked with a number of AHSNs to access expertise within the NHS across a range of activities that matter to us: clinical trials, product development and procurement routes are just three of the areas we have worked with AHSNs. The AHSNs have brokered access to experts and been the catalysts for some very exciting opportunities for us.’

So based on the feedback of key stakeholders we believe that we are doing things that add value in areas that are important. As ever, we welcome feedback.