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NIHR ARCs and HINs: Collaborating to support post-pandemic NHS priorities

Published: 19 March 2024

NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (NIHR ARCs) across the country paired up with their corresponding regional Health Innovation Networks (HINs) to solve the most significant issues in local health systems.

The 14 regional ARC and HIN pairs have been working on the NHS Insights Prioritisation Programme (NIPP), which started in November 2021 to accelerate the evaluation and implementation of promising innovations which support post-pandemic ways of working; building service resilience, and delivering benefits to patients.

NIHR ARCs and HINs received £4.2m from NHS England for these collaborative projects.

The partnerships tested and evaluated innovative approaches within their local Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). Each project focused on four priority areas:

  • Remote consultation – a discussion between a clinician or patient which is not carried out face-to-face.
  • Remote monitoring – using technology to support people at home to collect clinical data and share it securely with a clinician.
  • New approaches to service delivery – improving services, particularly for those experiencing health inequalities for access to services.
  • Health and social care workforce innovation – how staff can help innovation in service delivery and develop new ways of working.

New regional and national reports, out today, cover the key findings and learnings from these joint endeavours.

National overview

The NHS Insights Prioritisation Programme was successful in accelerating the progress of 14 promising innovations and interventions to support post-pandemic ways of working in the NHS. A new national overview report outlines the findings of the 14 projects which identified and tested these innovations. 

Professor Dame Nicky Cullum, Chair of the NIHR ARCs, said: 

"The collaboration between the Health Innovation Networks and the NIHR Applied Research Collaborations has enabled us to deliver practical insights that address changing health and care needs post-pandemic. We hope this learning will help health and care teams, and benefit our communities."

Richard Stubbs, Chair of The Health Innovation Network, said:

“The NHS Insights Prioritisation Programme has provided a rapid analysis of some of the most promising health and care innovations across the country in real-world settings. These findings and recommendations will help Integrated Care Systems understand how they might implement these new approaches in their local system.’

“An independent evaluation of the programme concluded that NIPP had been successful in facilitating a structured approach for the funding and acceleration of innovations and interventions, building on previous initiatives, such as the NHS Beneficial Changes Network.”

Natalie Owen, Head of NIHR Infrastructure at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: 

"This report highlights how the Health Innovation Network and the NIHR ARCs have come together to deliver insights that will bring real benefit to patients across the country. The relationships developed through this opportunity will be a huge asset for future collaboration to move research evidence towards tangible impact for the health and care system and for the population."

Verena Stocker, interim director of innovation, research, life sciences and strategy, NHS England, said:

“The NHS played an essential role in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. We found the first effective treatment for Covid and delivered the first accredited COVID-19 vaccine. Across the country we saw promising healthcare innovations and interventions effectively introduced and deployed. The NHS Insights Prioritisation Programme captured the actionable insights from 14 of those groundbreaking projects, helping to ensure a challenging period for the country has a positive legacy that will drive innovation implementation in healthcare.”

The 14 projects 

The reports from each NIHR ARC and HIN joint NIPP project are:

  • ARC East of England & Health Innovation East: Understanding the implementation and impact of remote monitoring pathways in Integrated Care Systems (ICSs)
  • ARC Greater Manchester & Health Innovation Manchester: Optimising vaccination in Greater Manchester
  • ARC Kent, Surrey and Sussex & Health Innovation Kent Surrey Sussex: Evaluating Discharge to Access (D2A) pathways across Kent, Surrey and Sussex
  • ARC North East and North Cumbria & Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria: Evaluating the impact of a new, digital intervention to reduce opioid prescribing in primary care
  • ARC North Thames & UCL Partners Health Innovation: Implementing a learning health system approach for the Community Diagnostic Centre programme in London
  • ARC Northwest London & Imperial College Health Partners: Improving identification and management of chronic kidney disease 
  • ARC North West Coast & Health Innovation North West Coast: Early supported transfer home of preterm babies
  • ARC Oxford and Thames Valley & Health Innovation Oxford and Thames Valley: Evaluating the role of virtual transient ischaemic attack outpatient clinics
  • ARC South London & Health Innovation Network South London: HEAL-D Online: a new diabetes self-management programme for the African and Caribbean community
  • ARC South West Peninsula (PenARC) & Health Innovation South West: Community Assessment Treatment Units for frail patients in Cornwall
  • ARC Wessex & Health Innovation Wessex: Investigating digital remote monitoring for people living with frailty, to inform the development of frailty virtual wards
  • ARC West & Health Innovation West of England: Evaluating the use of non-GP health professionals in primary care
  • ARC West Midlands & Health Innovation West Midlands: Acute assessment and medical care without hospital transfer for older people living with frailty
  • ARC Yorkshire and Humber & Health Innovation Yorkshire & Humber: Evaluation of Unscheduled Care Coordination Hubs to reduce hospital attendance

What are ARCs and HINs?

Regional HINs are funded by NHS England and cover the same geographical regions as ARCs. Like ARCs, HINs bring together different organisations, especially the NHS and industry innovators. However, HINs are specifically focused on the adoption and spread of innovations, while ARCs are more about conducting applied research.

As an example, an ARC might evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the roll-out of an intervention. If you have an innovation that you want to bring into practice and spread across the NHS, you want your local HIN. However, if you are interested in applied research and academic evaluation, then ARCs are more relevant.

Join the NIHR ARCs network and find out more about your local ARC

Learn more about the Applied Research Collaborations and find your local NIHR ARC.

To keep up to date with the latest funding opportunities, events and projects from all 15 ARCs across the country,  join the ARC email newsletter and follow @NIHRARCs on Twitter.

Book the upcoming annual national NIHR ARCs #ARCseminar webinar series, for a taste of the varied ARC research into health and care inequities.

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