Navigating the UK Health Service Landscape

A Guide for Incoming Health Tech Businesses

1. Forward

The NHS has long welcomed innovations in all of its forms and even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the institution was having to rapidly change the way care was delivered to serve an ageing population. It is no secret that digital innovation has the potential to revolutionise healthcare delivery to empower self care, improve workflow efficiency and increase quality. We have all witnessed a similar phenomenon in many industries to date.

Over many years working in digital transformation and health technology research, we have listened to hundreds of innovators describe their products. They all promise to improve patient outcomes and make cost savings to the system in a wide variety of ways, from wearables to remote medical record access, artificial intelligence and everything in between.

For innovators it is important to recognise that despite these benefits, innovations can bring additional pressure to clinical teams, often diverting staff from front-line duties. This can occur through exploratory conversations, evidence gathering, advocacy, consultancy, patient engagement or budgetary investigation. Each day clinical teams are approached by a great many innovators with promise of help - having your technology recognised in a busy and complex market is therefore a significant challenge.

Your journey toward success will not be linear and despite having a UK evidence base for your product or service, there is currently no mandate to have your innovation adopted, unlike in pharmaceuticals. You should know that there is no ‘magic bullet’ to health technology adoption.

With all of that, the UK is a great place to do business, develop exciting and world beating products and access one of the most interesting and enormous healthcare organisations in the world - the National Health Service, or NHS.

This report has been designed to assist you in your mission to engage, strategise and succeed in the NHS environment. You will become familiarised with the structure, terminology and unique differences in the UK system. You will find useful insights into the NHS, the formal frameworks and the institutional support networks, all of which will help inform a UK engagement strategy.

You will find observations of successful innovators demonstrate a multi-faceted approach. We can see that those who gain traction in the UK gather real-world local evidence, demonstrate a cost consequence against the existing care pathways and articulate a clear value proposition. Inward investors build trust by committing to a UK presence and forming relationships with influential stakeholders while addressing significant local and national challenges.

In summary, health technology adoption is not a simple step-by-step journey in the UK but a navigation through a complex ecosystem which this report will describe and illuminate. Evidence is key, but so are relationships - proof of benefit alongside an intimate understanding of people’s lived experiences will go a long way toward ensuring that you succeed.

Dr Symonds is Co-Founder and Director of Healthwave, has worked in front line clinical NHS roles for 20 years and over this time he has founded and led a busy research unit embedded in Primary Care, held an executive board level role in an NHS organisation and co-founded an award winning Primary Care Network. He combines clinical practice with directing Healthwave, a research movement with a mission to increase digital inclusion in healthcare.

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