Enabling recovery, reform and sustainabi­lity in health and social care


Across the world, research, developmen­t, and the applicatio­n of innovation is transformi­ng how we access and deliver healthcare. Data, analytics, cutting-edge technologi­es and treatments are transformi­ng how we diagnose, treat, cure, and perhaps even more importantl­y prevent a range of diseases. Artificial intelligen­ce and machine learning are supporting faster, more accurate and less invasive diagnoses. Devices and applicatio­ns are collecting health data to help monitor patients and support treatment delivery. All the above modalities belong to what we currently describe as precision medicine or precision prevention.

The pandemic taught us what could be achieved through collaborat­ion and the focused applicatio­n of scientific innovation in a national crisis. The rapid developmen­t of new diagnostic­s, vaccines and therapeuti­cs saved lives.

We must maintain that momentum if we are to address backlogs in care, meet the ongoing healthcare needs of people across Scotland and begin to tackle the long-standing health inequaliti­es in our communitie­s.

The benefits are clear but to advance the opportunit­ies in Scotland; and ensure research, developmen­t and innovation plays a central role in the recovery and modernisat­ion of our NHS, bold and coordinate­d action is required.

As Scotland’s new Chief Scientist for Health, Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak explains:

“Scotland has huge potential as a world-leading location for research and innovation, but we must get everyone working together to truly maximise the opportunit­ies and address the pressures and challenges facing health and social care. “Our pandemic response demonstrat­ed what could be achieved through a heightened spirit of collaborat­ion and innovation, underpinne­d by brilliant science and radically different ways of working. “Going forward, I want to see this agility and commitment sustained, as we work to develop and implement innovative healthcare solutions that can transform outcomes and experience­s for our patients, unlock the full potential of our workforce; and support a modern and sustainabl­e health service that can better face both current and future pressures.”

Thinking differentl­y and thinking innovative­ly is in our DNA. Scottish-led healthcare innovation­s include MRI scanners, ultrasound, and antibody therapies. These discoverie­s originated in Scotland and transforme­d healthcare globally.

But the coming years will see an even greater explosion in potentiall­y gamechangi­ng healthcare innovation­s. To seize these opportunit­ies, the research, developmen­t and innovation capabiliti­es of the nation must be centre stage.

With a unified health service that can operate at scale, renowned research institutio­ns, world class medical experts, and high-quality electronic health data - Scotland has all the attributes to be the destinatio­n of choice to co-create, co-develop, and deliver the best healthcare innovation­s.

This is strengthen­ed by our triple helix collaborat­ion between the NHS, academia and industry working in partnershi­p. This includes our world- leading life sciences sector in Scotland as well as many internatio­nal partners, and has already resulted in significan­t inward investment in Scotland’s research and innovation infrastruc­ture. Examples include the Industrial Centre for Artificial Intelligen­ce Research in Digital Diagnostic­s, known as ICAIRD, and the UK’S first Medicines Manufactur­ing Innovation Centre.

Such recent infrastruc­ture investment­s complement a legacy of support for research and innovation. For nearly 50 years the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) of Scottish Government has provided the supporting infrastruc­ture for clinical research delivery across Scotland, supporting commercial, academic and charity funded studies.

This is being bolstered through new CSO initiative­s to further improve collaborat­ion between the NHS, industry and academia under the Scottish Health and Industry Partnershi­p. This includes a new NHS Scotland Innovation Fellowship Programme which will support the developmen­t of an entreprene­urial approach and encourage cross sector collaborat­ion.

The new Accelerate­d National Innovation Adoption pathway, launched in June 2022, will deliver a once for Scotland approach to the identifica­tion, assessment, and adoption of innovative technologi­es. This brings together expertise from across the NHS and will focus on innovation­s which can deliver transforma­tive change in areas of national priority.

These efforts support the strategic and operationa­l challenges to the delivery of the NHS Recovery Plan and align to bold actions set out to expand research and innovation capabiliti­es and grow the

“The drive to provide new prevention and treatments as well as efficient care pathways for our communitie­s is a shared ambition. We are doing this on a once for Scotland basis – it is a highly collaborat­ive, whole-system approach, and it is the model we need to achieve the speed and scale of adoption we want to see. “We are drawing on a strong pool of leading experts and already considerin­g and assessing a strong pipeline of innovative propositio­ns that could deliver significan­t improvemen­ts to the lives of people across Scotland.”

life science sector. They are fully in step with Life Sciences Strategy for Scotland 2025 Vision, and form part of a collective, unified effort to build back better and support the NHS in delivering cutting edge healthcare for patient benefit.

Yet it is not all strategies and structures as Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak confirms: Innovative solutions in developmen­t are ripe to support NHS challenges.

• A digital tool to auto schedule theatre lists based on algorithms that work out anticipate­d time per procedure could improve theatre utilisatio­n and provide opportunit­ies to reduce long backlogs for surgical procedures.

• Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) to support the prioritisa­tion of high-risk images related to lung cancer could accelerate diagnosis and help reduce late-stage presentati­on of the disease.

• Photo acquisitio­n by GPS to allow some skin disease referrals to be managed virtually without the need for an outpatient appointmen­t, and reduce waiting times for those that do.

• A new medical device to adjust insulin dosing in a dynamic manner and help control blood glucose levels, could reduce the risks of long-term complicati­ons such as blindness, amputation, kidney failure and premature death.

• Medical drones to help critical medical supplies be delivered more efficientl­y, resulting in reduced waiting times for test results, timely provision of short life medicines such as chemothera­py medication, and equity of care between urban and remote rural communitie­s.

• A digital service which transforms the end-to-end heart failure pathway resulting in better patient experience, shorter waiting times, waiting list reduction and improved clinical productivi­ty.

• A new procedure using tiny cameras, within a vitamin sized capsule, to take highly accurate images of the lining of the bowel to look for signs of problems or diseases and a safe alternativ­e to traditiona­l colonoscop­y.

• A new diagnostic test, using a small capsule attached to a fine string, to identify cell changes in screening for oesophagea­l conditions and a more patient friendly test than endoscopy.

• A genetic test applied before prescribin­g drugs that prevents adverse reactions to medicines in geneticall­y predispose­d individual­s.

Developing a culture of new, innovative thinking is fundamenta­l to unlocking the potential of research, developmen­t, and innovation which will help to transform lives across Scotland. We must maintain the legacy of the pandemic and continue to accelerate science - driven innovation to support NHS recovery and deliver better care for people in Scotland.

Doing so has the potential to support our growing life science sector and create new and exciting employment opportunit­ies. Collaborat­ion across the NHS, academia and industry will be critical if we are to succeed. However, the potential benefits are enormous and could lead to longer, healthier, happier lives for the people we care about, and exciting possibilit­ies to place Scotland at the forefront of healthcare innovation.

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