NHS England has licensed 15 academic health science networks which it hopes will improve the uptake of innovative treatments by trusts and generate economic growth.  

The 15 networks (see full list in box below) will bring together commissioners, providers, academia and industry.

They will share £70m of NHS England funding in the first year but are expected to be self-sufficient in the longer-term.

AHSNs are designed to drive collaboration, connect state organisations with local industry and co-ordinate specific projects which have been selected on the basis of the needs of local populations and capabilities of partners.

HSJ understands eight AHSNs have received full licences, which last five years, while seven have been given conditions to fulfil, including submitting more robust business plans.
Senior AHSN sources said networks were being given between £2m and £7m depending on their business case, size of local population, and costs associated with the areas they are focusing on.  

Business cases are wide-ranging and focus on areas including alcohol-related conditions, cancer, dementia, genetics, information management and patient safety.  

NHS England chief executiv Sir David Nicholson said: “AHSNs offer a more systematic delivery mechanism so that innovation spreads quickly and successfully through the NHS, making the best possible use of precious NHS resources and ensuring the most advanced treatments, technologies and medicines are available to patients.”

NHS England deputy national medical director Steve Field, who is on the project’s steering group, told HSJ the networks represented “a fantastic opportunity” to increase the take-up and spread of innovative medicines and technologies.

Professor Field said the £70m would “kick start” networks but NHS England was “encouraging them to seek external funding”.

“Ideally, in the long-term, they will be self-sufficient,” he said, adding that they were expected to partner with private companies, charities, councils, other government agencies and other organisations.     

The development of AHSNs was recommended in Sir David’s December 2011 report Innovation, Health and Wealth, which said every trust should be a member of a network.

South West Peninsula AHSN chair Andrew Vallance-Owen said he was looking forward to engaging with small and medium enterprises to drive growth.

He said: “We want to encourage orgranisations from universities to SMEs to trusts, to think about taking what they are doing overseas. We are working with the local chamber of commerce to identify suitable SMEs.”  

The designated AHSNs are:

  • East Midlands
  • Eastern
  • Greater Manchester
  • North East and North Cumbria
  • North West Coast
  • Imperial College Health Partners
  • Oxford
  • South London
  • South West Peninsula
  • Kent, Surrey and Sussex
  • UCL Partners
  • Wessex
  • West Midlands
  • West of England
  • Yorkshire and Humber