Find the right route into the NHS for your business with MedCity's top tips

Get to know the NHS landscape

…including the different organisations and the role each plays. Understand the demand and priority areas for the NHS to ensure that your product or service aligns to demand.

Watch this short video from the King’s Fund on The New NHS, which gives a great overview of the key players

Do your market research

What already exists on the market that targets your audience, therapy area or usage? What is your unique differentiator?

Understand the multiple entry points

If you are a clinician or work within a particular NHS Trust, start there or use your local Academic Health Science Network connections.

This map from East Midlands AHSN shows the geographical coverage of the AHSNsThis table illustrates AHSN responsibilities.

Use practitioners and influencers

If you aren’t connected with a Trust, establish sponsorship or collaboration early with health practitioners and influencers, such as Clinical Commissioning Group contacts and Trust procurement or commercial managers, who know the system in your area. To find contacts:

  • If your product or service benefits a patient pathway or clinical outcome, advice or clinician expertise and sponsorship can be sought through the contacts listed on nihr.ac.uk. This is an NIHR service primarily for clinical trials, however clinician expertise runs across general research and therapy interests.
  • Search nihr.ac.uk/default.aspx for clinical trials already ongoing to understand which hospitals are involved in research relating to your product or service and therefore interested in the area.
  • A free resource to access latest scientific publications and authors aligned to your speciality area is amedeo.com/about.php. Authors can be approached for support or partnership.
  • Approach a hospital health charity, which may be able to help with funding and clinician support if your idea fits with their areas of focus: assoc-nhs-charities.org.uk/site/about-us.html
  • Attend networking events

Understand commissioning and procurement

Work with sponsors, partners and influencers to understand commissioning and business planning cycles and tender thresholds, which vary between Trusts. The higher the risk and value, the more formal the process, and working with a specialist procurement advisor is advisable. Timelines are generally long, and persistence and follow up is vital.

As public sector bodies, CCGs, Trusts and Arms Length Bodies (ALBs) and others are all subject to EU procurement rules. If the value of your solution is under the threshold, the organisation’s Standing Financial Instructions will describe the approvals and procurement process for different values of purchase. SFIs are normally published on the organisation’s website, and if you have a contact in the organisation, they will need to access and follow these to go through the buying process.

Design a pilot or case study

…and make sure it has the information to get payers interested. Include data that demonstrates efficiency, efficacy, quality, and improved patient experience and clinical outcomes. Contact the NIHR’s resource design service.   

Avoid unpaid pilots

If unpaid pilots are the only way to trial your product then negotiate an agreement that ensures payback based on results, this helps to get sponsorship – health charities that work directly with NHS Trusts may offer more flexibility. A small value pilot might also mean less formal approval routes under the organisation’s SFIs, helping you to generate evidence and the buyer to test out the benefits and change implications of your solution.

If your product is digital

…also consider issues of interoperability, data privacy and security, which a purchaser may raise. Some digital services will fall under the rules for CE marking, so check with the MHRA. The BSI has recently consulted on a Publicly Available Specification for health applications, which is expected to be published in April 2015; consider using this as a quality guide.

Don’t underestimate change management

Successful adoption of innovation requires people and institutions to work and think differently. Be persistent, seek change agents within the organisation you are targeting, and demonstrate value and benefit throughout the journey. Be prepared to repeat the process within other Trusts – don’t assume they talk to each other.