The Problem

“There is currently no single, national, online service for health innovators seeking to navigate the innovation pathway and the NHS infrastructure.”
Problem statement from Discovery

It is estimated that the average innovation takes over 10 years to be adopted into the NHS. This creates a multitude of inefficiencies for both innovators and potential beneficiaries across the health service. Whilst there are several organisations that provide support to innovators, there is no unified NHS process or service to support the end-to-end journey.

NHS England & NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) recognised the need for a single, national online service for health innovators seeking to navigate the innovation pathway and NHS infrastructure. Its ambition is to create a service that consolidates support to innovators, including regulation, evidence generation, and relevant resources, national and regional funding channels, handover between support channels, needs articulation from health and care, and path-to-live and procurement processes.

In March 2020, NHSE&I undertook a Discovery/Early Alpha to develop this service. However, the GDS assessment of the Alpha raised several concerns around the approach and how it was meeting the needs of both innovators and those delivering services within the NHS.


The Approach

NHSE&I asked BJSS to take over the Alpha from the incumbent agency to co-develop a user-centred solution. Building on the work done in Alpha 1, but recognising the need to take on the feedback of the GDS assessment, BJSS applied a user-centred, GDS aligned Design Thinking approach.

Utilising Agile rituals and rhythms, the project ran five concurrent workstreams: stakeholder and user engagement, service design, user research, product design, and technical exploration.

The user research focused on addressing the gaps highlighted from Alpha 1 and ensuring a thorough understanding of users, actors and the end-to-end service. Stakeholder and user engagement maximised the utilisation of stakeholders’ time through running several meetings and co-creation exercises whilst establishing a pool of users to test and iterate the prototype. Five rounds of usability testing allowed iteration at pace, enabling the service design and technical streams to focus on the needs of all users as well as the key design decisions for the end-to-end service.

Collectively, these streams, ceremonies and ways of working allowed the team to be truly iterative, incorporating change whilst refining the prototype, Service Blueprint, Architecture and Process Map, whilst documenting evidence and traceability of decisions.

The Outcome

The Alpha enabled NHSE&I and BJSS to articulate the ‘To Be’ state for an Innovation Service: a joined-up and cohesive multi-group approach to provide early-stage support to innovators through the combined efforts of bodies including AHSNs, NIHR, NICE, LSH Wales and MHRA. This ‘To Be’ state was articulated through a Service Blueprint (including several prototypes), Process Map, Rules of Engagement and Architecture.

An Alpha Recommendation Report, including a plan for Beta, was delivered to the client and all artefacts and written reports were used as part of the Alpha GDS Assessment.

The Alpha passed its GDS assessment with flying colours and moved into private Beta. Based on this successful collaborative working, BJSS has been engaged to take the Alpha through to private and public Beta.

“Getting good innovations to patients quicker is the aim of new NHS Innovation Service. The BJSS team helped us realise our goal to create a unique service that understands the needs of both innovators and the multiple organisations involved in assessing and regulating health care products. The team were great to work with and helped guide us through to completion using an agile and user-centred approach.”