A new national “unit” is being established, with its own “chief executive”, to oversee innovation and medicines, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

In a statement today, the DHSC said there would be a “new unit in NHS England and NHS Improvement, which will be led by Sam Roberts as chief executive”. Dr Roberts is currently NHSE and I’s director of innovation and research.

The unit ”will have an integrated innovation and medicines senior management team… [and] bring together the coordination of medicines policy, commercial agreement and broader innovation policy and delivery”, the press release said.

The concept resembles NHSX, the “unit” formed earlier this year, at the behest of the health and social care secretary, across the DHSC, NHSE and NHSI to lead on technology, which also has a chief executive despite not being an organisation.

The innovation unit will house the “accelerated access collaborative”, which was set up last year, along with an “accelerated access pathway”, with the aim of improving access to breakthrough treatments.

The AAC panel decides on products to fast track through the NHS approval process, and has so far selected 12. 

A statement released by the DHSC said the AAC would be expanded, and be “the umbrella organisation for UK health innovation… acting as a front-door for innovator support and setting the strategy for the entire health innovation ecosystem”.

Health minister Nicola Blackwood said in a statement: “I want the NHS to be at the forefront of cutting-edge treatments and medical innovations – but often it can take too long for products to get from the bench to the bedside.

“The accelerated access collaborative will speed up this process so patients and the NHS can be the first in the world to benefit from the most transformative technologies and treatments as part of our long-term plan.”

The expanded AAC, the statement said, would launch a system to identify new innovative technologies and try to make sure NHS staff are trained to use them, among other functions. 

Lord Ara Darzi, who will remain the chair of the AAC board, said the move “marks an exciting step towards achieving our vision for a health system which embraces and accelerates the adoption of innovation”.