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Why AHSNs provide a remedy for the challenges of the NHS

Conference meeting

In the NHS Confederation survey of 2015, both NHS leaders and politicians identify the need for change in the NHS. There are areas of disagreement, but one thing that stands out from the survey is the number one answer as to what the solutions might be: “Greater commitment to working collaboratively across organisations”.

This is where Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) have a significant role to play in facilitating such collaborations in order to address the complex challenges faced by our health services. Think about how often we’ve all heard comments like these over the years: “Working in silos”; “Academics not talking to front-line practitioners”; “Industry and healthcare can’t work together”. AHSNs are proving that these mindsets are very much in the past by bringing different stakeholders together – health and social care providers, patients and members of the public, industry, Universities and other research bodies – to improve patient care and their experience.

And in two and a half years we’ve started to make a real difference. We’ve worked with a range of partners to create a game changing toolkit for clinicians and patients to help prevent atrial fibrillation-related strokes. Through our Prevention of Cerebral Palsy in Pre-term Labour project, we have acted on evidence that giving magnesium sulphate to women who give birth at 30 weeks or earlier can reduce the risks of babies having the condition – to date we have trained more than 600 midwives in this practice, helping to cut down on cases of cerebral palsy from birth. And we’ve developed a unique online platform where our GPs, commissioners and patients can see the performance of different medications both in terms of treatment and procurement, helping to improve patient safety and efficiencies respectively.

These achievements reflect the findings of a recent AHSN Stakeholder Survey which revealed that the West of England is ranked in the top grouping in virtually all areas, with the level of engagement and clear direction of our network coming in for particular praise.

However, what’s most important is not individual performances of the 15 AHSNs in the UK, but the sum of all of us. That’s why we collectively have to mirror the collaborative spirit that we engender in our own local areas. By sharing our experiences and learnings, we will ensure the very best developments that come out of each region will realise their full potential across the country. In doing so, we will emerge as a vital cog in the delivery of new models of care that are required in the future.


Posted on October 8, 2015 by Deborah Evans, Managing Director of the West of England AHSN

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