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This article was organised and fully funded by Bristol Myers Squibb, and developed in collaboration by BMS and HSJ. This article has no promotional intent. Bristol Myers Squibb does not intend to encourage the use of, or advocate the promotion of, its products through the objectives of this article.

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The recent HSJ roundtable held in association with Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) identified the potential building blocks for adopting and accelerating innovation in the delivery of cancer treatments. The discussion highlighted the case for rapidly embedding clinically led peer-to-peer service development as routine practice in the NHS, with the aim of supporting and empowering clinicians to spread and disseminate best practice.

There has never been a better time for change

The roundtable event on the 23 September certainly reinforced some of the wider systemic challenges to the uptake of innovation in the NHS, which continues to face numerous and overlapping challenges. However, it was also encouraging to hear that with the right support, time and resources, NHS staff can unlock many of the opportunities presented by clinically led peer-to-peer service development.

It was clear from the roundtable discussion that innovation need not be perceived as an abstract or unknown; clinicians, particularly those who are early adopters of innovation, have an important and tangible role to play in designing the end-to-end process for innovation and crucially ensuring that the services that provide these innovations are adaptive and agile in their design. However, the process for doing this – peer-to-peer service led service development – isn’t sufficiently recognised for its potential to accelerate the spread of innovation at present.

Yet, establishing simple processes to implement clinically led peer-to-peer service development can offer the system quick wins, with relatively modest inputs. This can certainly be approached in a course-correct fashion.

Embedding peer-to-peer service development

One possible approach for rolling out peer-to-peer service development might be the introduction of specialised “evaluator” roles. Evaluators would encourage early adopters of innovation to evaluate their own service design and delivery. The critical next step would be for evaluators to share learnings with peers outside their organisational boundaries, forming a collaborative network of innovation best practice across the NHS. Dr Anna Olsson Brown highlighted that with this model, it is worth adopting a whole system approach which embraces learnings and applications from therapy areas beyond oncology. She also spoke of the merit of a more joined up, national service approach given the common population needs which persist across geographies.

Reflecting on this, in the short-term, peer-to-peer service development could be characterised by local and indeed national best practice networks underpinned by clinician led insight. In the longer term, it may evolve towards more formal ways of working for example national commissioning against a set of standards. Determining the best model will also require collaborative action from all stakeholders including patients at the heart.

Bristol Myers Squibb is committed to continuing the conversation that was started at the roundtable and to supporting the oncology community to share and spread best practice and innovation as widely as possible. Collaboration among clinicians, commissioners, managers and industry will embed clinically led peer-to-peer service development that can lead to better care and improved outcomes for cancer patients now and in the future.

This article has been authored by Jagtar Dhanda, policy, advocacy and government affairs manager at Bristol Myers Squibb.

Job code: ONC-GB-2101068

December 2021

Also read:

Roundtable report – What do emerging treatments for cancer tell us about how the NHS can best spread innovation?

Clinical spotlight – What do emerging treatments for cancer tell us about how the NHS can best adopt and spread innovation?