What have Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) ever done for you and I? #AHSNs

I have written a fair bit about Academic Health Sciences Networks (AHSNs) in the past. Not always favourably I’ll admit. But that was then and this is now.

I am pleased to report that, as of May, the 15 AHSN have been re-licensed/re-designated/re-booted (select as necessary) for another five years with NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, describing them as a catalyst for change in the innovation landscape.

They have also produced a rather nifty booklet entitled ‘Guide to the AHSN Network 2018: Our collective impact and future plans.’ It was launched at the NHS Confederation today and includes some great examples of innovation that AHSNs have had a role in developing. From medicines safety to cerebral palsy. I encourage you to take a look.

I was pleased to see Mike Hannay, Chair of the AHSN Network and managing director of the East Midlands AHSN, use his blog on the NHS Confederation website today to call out the important role of public involvement and engagement in this success to date. Mike Hannay describes this as one of the ‘untold stories’ and I would agree.

The role of public involvement and engagement in the AHSNs continues to be under-stated. Individually and collectively they have done some great work. This booklet ‘Exploring Patient and Public Involvement in a Digital Age’ is an exemplar.  Where there has been a lack of definition it is perhaps only natural given their stage of development. But with some careful thought they could be the cutting edge of public involvement in some key areas of weakness for our community such as innovation adoption.  The sorts of areas which would enhance the UK’s attractiveness on the global stage.

So the re-licensing gives them an opportunity to work with patients, carers and the public and think creatively and ambitiously about the future, to chart  in coherent terms the role that involvement and engagement will have. Key criteria for success will include: clarity of mission, strong leadership from top to bottom, appropriate resourcing including people, the setting of clear expectations with partners and a willingness to partner with patient organisations locally and nationally.

I understand that we will hear more about the AHSNs future programme and plans over the summer. Let’s hope the next chapter is an even better one.

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