The Department-designated Academic Health Science Centres (AHSCs) along with the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaborations (ARCs) are all important components of the country’s health research and innovation ecosystem.
The six current Department-designated AHSCs were made on the basis of an open competition, which was open to eligible National Health Service and University partnerships across England. The recommendations for designation were made to the Department by an international independent panel.
The remit of the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) has recently been expanded to become the umbrella body across the United Kingdom health innovation eco-system. The AAC has been asked to consider the role of new AHSCs within the health system and to ensure that they complement the innovation landscape, rather than add further complexity to it.
It is not possible to provide specific details of the scope and nature of the new designation process at this stage given that the AAC is currently actively considering this. However, it is expected that the future designation process would be open to all NHS and University partnerships across England which meet the published specification to apply, including partnerships in areas of England where there is currently no Departmental-AHSC. As with the previous AHSC designation process, any future process will be run via a full and open competition, assessed by an independent expert panel. Rigorous conflict of interest policies will also be in place throughout the process for all involved to ensure any potential conflicts are dealt with appropriately.
The existing Departmental-AHSC designation will be extended until the end of March 2020 to enable a new designation process to be undertaken. The Department’s expectation is that AHSCs will play an increasingly important role in the health innovation and research landscape over the coming years.
As currently, the success of any newly designated AHSCs will require close interplay and cooperation between research infrastructure, including NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) and the NIHR ARCs, and with the AHSNs and wider innovation landscape.
As part of annual monitoring of the existing Department-designated AHSCs, examples of innovations arising from them have been reported to have been made available to patients in the NHS. These include:
- The King’s Health Partners Heart Failure Service, which brings together clinical, research and educational expertise to deliver world class heart care in south London, helping people with heart failure live longer and with better quality of life;
- University College London Partners AHSC adoption of a Learning Health System to standardise data entry and allowing the widespread trialling of novel tools to detect atrial fibrillation early;
- The Manchester AHSC working with partners to align research around core health and social care priorities; and supporting the roll out of a single blood test driven decision-aid for patients presenting with chest pain at local emergency departments; and
- The roll out of the innovative Sleepio app by the Oxford AHSN to support those suffering from insomnia across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.