New technologies for a new NHS

Zahid Latif explains how innovative technologies are contributing to the NHS’ mission to deliver ‘high quality care for all, now and for future generations’ at a time of constrained resources.

NHS England is under significant pressure. NHS trusts announced recently that the deficit had reached £930 million in June. Pushed to reduce costs, the healthcare system is squeezed, faced with difficult decisions such as the one to drop several life-saving treatments from the Cancer Drugs Fund. Public debate around this is generally focused on cost cuts and organisational reshuffle, but it is clear the NHS is at an inflection point and needs to do things differently.

The future

Like other healthcare providers around the world, the NHS is assessing how it manages the future of health and care in a scalable and effective way. Part of this involves trying to move towards primary care and remotely-managed health services provision rather than secondary care, but part of this must also include partnering with cutting-edge companies that can produce cost-effective solutions for a more productive and sustainable healthcare system. Behaviour change and innovation are the cornerstones of this future system.

We are working closely with a network of companies supplying organisations like the NHS to capitalise on applications that educate the public to become increasingly self-managed, reducing pressure on the public healthcare system.

As part of this initiative, Innovate UK and UK Trade & Investment will co-host the Innovate 2015 event in November, to spotlight potential health technologies and patient care apps and provide networking opportunities to help make healthcare fit-for-purpose in ever-changing times.

The following are some of the companies we are working with already.

Enabling accessibility

Adaptix is transforming radiology with its Flat Panel x-ray source. Planar X-ray is the diagnostic imaging modality most widely used in healthcare and now it is more accurate with low-dose 3D capability added and 50 per cent cheaper, thanks to a semi-conductor foundry reducing costs of manufacturing, deployment and maintenance. As the weight and size is reduced by 90 per cent, the technology is truly portable, making it accessible even to the most remote patients.

Improving staff training

Epicardio has launched a radical education programme with the world’s first ‘flight simulator for the heart’. Cardiology students and professionals now have access to active learning and training online. This means less diagnostic errors and reduced training costs.

Changing treatment choices

PolyPhotonix has manufactured a new sleep mask, Noctura 400, for the prevention and treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy. This is another innovation that reduces the burden on the public purse. This type of blindness is a diabetes-related complication, with some 1,280 new cases diagnosed every year. It is the most common form of reversible blindness. The current interventions are laser photocoagulation and intraocular injections, both of which are highly invasive, hospital-based and very expensive.

Noctura 400, on the other hand, is a continuing therapy which prevents blindness by emitting light into the eyes through closed eyelids. Patients wear it during the night, in the same way as wearing a sleeping mask on a plane. On top of that, it only costs about a third of the price of alternative treatments.

Making treatments more effective

Discuva is changing the possibilities of antibiotic drug discovery. Using next-generation sequencing and artificial intelligence (AI), treatments are developed more effectively by screening the best chemicals to fight bacteria. This expertise was not possible five years ago.

Technology delivering humanity

Red Ninja is helping young people with mental health problems manage their illnesses. It is also helping old people who feel isolated enjoy online shopping and young mothers connect with their new-born babies when they are in different hospitals due to birth complications. This design-led technology company is providing a path for a patient-centric global approach to healthcare services.

These are just some of the initiatives helping to transform healthcare delivery and assisting the NHS in reining in expenditure.

About the author:

Zahid Latif is Head of Healthcare at Innovate UK. He holds a degree in Pharmacy and a PhD in natural product chemistry.

Zahid joined Innovate UK in October 2007 as Lead Technologist in Medicines and Healthcare and was promoted to Head of Healthcare in 2010.

Prior to joining Innovate UK, he worked closely with different companies in drug discovery and development and was head of operations for one of the first marine biotech companies in the UK.

Contact him on Email: zahid.latif@innovateuk.gov.uk

Innovate UK is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

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