The NHS’s drive to instil best practice across the service risks suppressing innovation, experts heard at HSJ’s latest event

Peter Harrison

Peter Harrison

The battle to stamp out unwarranted variation in the NHS may have unwanted side effects, Siemens Healthineers managing director Peter Harrison argued at an HSJ Roundtable discussion.

He said that the push for new innovation in healthcare could be handicapped by rigorous insistence on best practice in all areas.

“If you eliminate unwarranted variation, and everyone’s operating best practice, well hallelujah, but only hallelujah for so long,” he said, “because you’ve then got stagnation.”

However, Tim Horton, associate director at think tank The Health Foundation, pointed out that innovation and best practice were not mutually exclusive: “Very often there’s substantial innovation and creativity required by a team adopting an idea from elsewhere and trying to make it work in their context.”