There are 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England, established by NHS England in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale – improving health and generating economic growth. Each AHSN works across a distinct geography serving a different population in each region as shown on the map below. The AHSNs are:

What is the role of AHSNs?

As the only bodies that connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, the third sector and industry, we are catalysts that create the right conditions to facilitate change across whole health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients. This means we are uniquely placed to identify and spread health innovation at pace and scale; driving the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations. Although small organisations – which ensures we remain flexible and responsive to emerging opportunities and challenges – we lead large regional networks. Hence our impact rests in our ability to bring people, resources and organisations together quickly, delivering benefits that could not be achieved alone. This Innovation Pathway summarises how AHSNs support the entire innovation life cycle.

How are AHSNs different and distinct?

Everything AHSNs do is driven by two imperatives: improving health and generating economic growth in our regions. We are the only partnership bodies that bring together all partners across a regional health economy to improve the health of local communities. We have a remit from NHS England to occupy a unique space outside of the usual NHS service contract and performance management structures. This enables us to foster collaborative solutions. We use our local knowledge and harness the influence of our partners to drive change on the ground and integrate research into health improvement. We are as interested in seeing healthcare businesses thrive and grow, creating jobs and bringing in investment to the UK, as we are in seeing the healthcare system improve.

What difference are AHSNs making?

Each AHSN works within its own area to develop projects, programmes and initiatives that reflect the diversity of our local populations and healthcare challenges. However, we all share the following priorities:

  • Promoting economic growth: fostering opportunities for industry to work effectively with the NHS
  • Diffusing innovation: creating the right environment, and supporting collaboration across boundaries, in order to adopt and spread innovation at pace and scale
  • Improving patient safety: using our knowledge, expertise and networks to bring together patients, healthcare staff and partners to determine priorities and develop and implement solutions
  • Optimising medicine use: ensuring that medication is used to its maximum benefit – improving safety and making efficient use of NHS resources
  • Improving quality and reducing variation: by spreading best practice we increase productivity and reduce variation, thereby improving patient outcomes
  • Putting research into practice: our strong links with academia mean we are uniquely placed to support the translation of research into clinical practice
  • Collaborating on national programmes: our unified programmes focus on delivery of the SBRI Healthcare initiative (supporting SME interaction), the NHS Innovation Accelerator, Patient Safety Collaboratives and medicines optimisation.

Ours is not a short-term challenge, but as our AHSN Network impact report  demonstrates we are already making a difference for patients and the public, for innovators, for clinicians and for the healthcare system. The impact we are making is already clear: for example a survey of AHSNs commissioned by NHS England found that 73% of respondents would recommend working with us. Please follow the links below to find out more about how ASHNs are supporting system-wide health transformation:

For further details, read our case studies.

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