Introduction to UK digital health and care
The National Health Service (NHS), the world’s largest integrated health system, employs over 1.7 million people and deals with over 1 million patients every 36 hours. It generates and manages vast amounts of data, providing significant innovative opportunities.
The UK is an attractive place for life sciences companies to grow.
Companies in the digital health and care sector can benefit from
- a tax structure that rewards innovation
- a world class science base
- a track record of life sciences excellence
- the people and facilities to develop your ideas all the way from inception to clinical trials
Numerous UK organisations give support, advice or useful information for each stage of the development life cycle for digital health and care products.
Discovery and deep research development stage: UK support organisations
BBSRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.
Intelligent Data Analysis Research Group (IDA Group)
The IDA group is a leading centre of excellence for multidisciplinary work involving artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning, dynamic systems, image and signal processing, optimisation, pattern recognition, statistics and visualisation.
The Digital Health & Care Institute (DHI) is part of the Scottish Funding Council’s Innovation Centre Programme, which is designed to support transformational collaboration between universities and businesses. Its networks, reach and capabilities are able bring the right people together and provide them with the means to identify, design, evaluate and invest in new solutions to the country’s priority health and care challenges.
The EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK, investing in research and postgraduate training. Its portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry.
EPSRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.
European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance)
The ECHAlliance works closely with the European Commission and national/regional governments, for the design of public policies, strategies and public policies about digital health, wellness and active and healthy ageing / silver economy.
They provide support through the innovation process to the development of products and services with high-level experts in a number of sectors. This includes IT, web technologies, medical devices, pharma, genomics, clinical teams, big data, Internet of Things, wearables, mHealth.
The Farr Institute is a UK-wide research collaboration involving 21 academic institutions and health partners in England, Scotland, and Wales. Publicly funded by a consortium of 10 organisations led by the Medical Research Council (MRC), it’s committed to delivering high-quality, cutting edge research using ‘big data’ to advance the health and care of patients and the public.
Medical Research Council (MRC)
The MRC improves human health through world-class medical research. It funds research across the biomedical spectrum and their research has resulted in life-changing discoveries for over 100 years. Their work ranges from laboratory research, for example on genes and molecules, right through to clinical trials and population studies.
MRC’s science is split into 6 broad areas of research which includes:
- infections and immunity
- molecular and cellular medicine
- neurosciences and mental health
- population and systems medicine
- global health
- translational research
Their research is carried out in universities, hospitals and a network of dedicated establishments across the UK and Africa.
The institute brings together world-class researchers, working with healthcare professionals, industry, policy makers and the broader population, to advance research in digital health that is technologically leading and socially relevant.
UK Biobank is a unique resource of data and samples linked to medical histories and health records from 500,000 adult participants and is open to bona fide researchers anywhere in the world, including those funded by academia and industry. It’s a major national health resource, and a registered charity in its own right.
Development and translation development stage: UK support organisations
The catapult centres are a network of world-leading centres designed to transform the UK’s capability for innovation in specific areas and help drive future economic growth.
The catapults include:
- cell and gene therapy
- high value manufacturing
- medicines discovery
- precision medicine
Digital Catapult is the UK’s leading advanced digital technology innovation centre. It drives the early adoption of digital technologies to make UK businesses more competitive, brings partners together and develops breakthroughs around sharing closed data between organisations.
CPRD is a governmental, not-for-profit research service. It’s jointly funded by the NHS National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). CPRD has been providing anonymised primary care records for public health research for 30 years.
This data enables:
- observational studies
- clinical trial feasibility and protocol optimisation
- post-market surveillance
The Code4Health Platform enables health professionals to develop solutions for the issues they face, connecting them with the technical support they need. It provides a simulated environment in which to explore the resources found in the emerging open digital health and care ecosystem which include:
- learning to code
- building apps
- discovering and creating content
- testing ideas
Digital Health and Care Alliance (DHACA)
DHACA is a non-profit sector-led organisation that furthers the cause of digital health and care systems in the UK and Europe, championing scalability and interoperability.
It’s an independent membership-led body of UK statutory and private service providers, manufacturers, software developers, consumer representative bodies, regulatory bodies, trade bodies and others. They aim to create the opportunity to develop large-scale, collaborative business models through the promotion of:
- open standards
- collaborative architectures
Genomics England was set up to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project. The project focusses on patients with rare diseases, and their families, as well as patients with common cancers.
Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive science and technology innovations. Innovate UK fund the strongest opportunities and connect innovators with the right partners they need to succeed.
Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership is Europe’s leading programme helping businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.
KTN is the UK’s innovation network. It connects people to speed up innovation, solve problems and find markets for new ideas.
The KTN Health Community connects organisations to catalyse innovation. It’s dedicated to accelerating innovation and technology exploitation in the health industries sector in the important areas of medical, biotechnology, medical technology, diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries.
The National Phenome Centre aims to deliver broad access to a world-class capability in metabolic phenotyping, that will benefit the UK translational medicine community. It is open to the whole UK research community (academic and industry) and offers a wide range of services from broad profiling untargeted assays to targeted assays. These services are offered on a collaborative project basis or as a fee-for-service offering.
The National Information Board’s role is to put data and technology safely to work for patients, service users, citizens and the professionals who serve them. It brings together national health and care organisations from the NHS, public health, clinical science, social care and local government, along with appointed independent representatives to develop the strategic priorities for data and technology.
The NIHR is funded through DHSC. It builds capacity and leadership in the research workforce, and attracts investment into the UK by supporting partnerships with life science companies, including small and medium enterprises, and charities.
NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (NIHR BRC) were formed through partnerships between England’s leading NHS organisations and universities. Twenty NIHR BRCs conduct translational research to transform scientific breakthroughs into life-saving treatments for patients. Staffed by expert investigators and clinicians, the centres are leaders in translating lab-based discoveries into new cutting edge treatments, technologies, diagnostics and other interventions in clinical settings.
NIHR Biomedical Research Units (BRU) are based within England’s leading NHS organisations and universities. They undertake translational research in priority areas of high disease burden and clinical need and focus on specific therapeutic areas of disease including:
- diet and lifestyle
- deafness and hearing
NIHR BioResource is a panel of thousands of volunteers, both with and without health problems, who are willing to be approached to participate in research studies investigating the links between genes, the environment, health and disease.
NIHR Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) has been developed for use by the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre and Dementia Biomedical Research Unit at the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust. CRIS provides authorised researchers with regulated access to a wide range of pseudonymised information extracted from the SLaM electronic clinical records system.
NIHR Clinical Research Facilities for Experimental Medicine (NIHR CRFs) are dedicated and purpose-built facilities, where specialist clinical research and support staff from universities and NHS Trusts work together on patient-orientated commercial and non-commercial experimental medicine studies.
Life science companies can access assistance for their studies throughout the research process from study design to data collection and management.
NIHR Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN) is the research delivery arm of the NHS in England. One of its priorities is to proactively support the life-sciences industry to deliver high quality commercial contract clinical research across all therapeutic areas. Its free-of-charge study support service helps life-science organisations effectively find investigators and sites, set-up and deliver their studies to time and target.
NIHR Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRCs) bring together a collaboration of the local providers of NHS services and NHS commissioners, universities, other relevant local organisations and the relevant Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).
NIHR CLAHRCs conduct applied health research across the NHS, and translate research findings into improved outcomes for patients. The 13 NIHR CLAHRCs primarily focus on research targeted at chronic disease and public health interventions.
NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative (NIHR HIC) brings together 5 of the country’s leading NHS Trusts with large NIHR Biomedical Research Centres to make NHS clinical data more readily available to researchers, industry and the NHS community.
It focuses on 5 scientific themes which are:
- acute coronary syndromes
- ovarian cancer
- renal transplantation
- intensive care
NIHR Medtech and In Vitro Diagnostics Co-operatives (NIHR MTCs) build expertise and capacity in the NHS to develop new medical technologies and provide evidence on commercially-supplied in vitro diagnostic (IVD) tests.
Leading NHS organisations act as centres of expertise, bringing together patients, clinicians, researchers, commissioners and industry.
NIHR National Biosample Centre provides high throughput and high quality biosample processing, storage and retrieval services. This supports NIHR research, and research funded by DHSC partners, such as the MRC, charities and industry.
NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) provides potential partners, including the life sciences industry and charities, with a direct and simplified route to a wide range of experimental medicine facilities and expert NIHR investigators.
NOCRI works with organisations to help them navigate this infrastructure and, where required, form partnerships and collaborations to bring new treatments to patients faster.
NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs) work to pull advances in basic research with potential relevance to patient safety into an applied research setting.
The 3 centres (Imperial, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire) bring together a range of research disciplines from the NHS and universities. They undertake research to drive forward improvements in patient safety and safety of NHS services in hospitals and GP surgeries.
This research has the potential to translate into real benefits for patients, such as reducing prescription errors, improving diagnosis of cancer and rare diseases and reducing accidents during surgery.
Nesta’s health lab is developing a portfolio of digital health projects that improve the ability to target care precisely, support behaviour change, and empower patients. NESTA supports a number of health tech and data research projects as well as practical programmes.
It focuses on innovation in terms of:
- consent processes
- data models
NICE Office for Market Access (NICE OMA)
NICE OMA provides expert advice to the life sciences industry on pharmaceuticals, health technologies, diagnostics, and devices.
They advise on:
- NICE processes
- how to work with NICE to achieve your aims
- how NICE links with different parts of the system
- the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) and how NICE supports it
NICE Scientific Advice (NICE SA)
NICE SA offers a fee-based consultancy service to developers of:
- medicines (including orphan drugs)
- a range of services for different product types
NHS Research Scotland (NRS)
NRS promotes and supports excellence in clinical and translational research in Scotland for patients to benefit from new and better treatments.
It connects NHS, industry and academia to accelerate the development of new treatments, devices and diagnostics to tackle complex healthcare needs.
Regulatory and health technology assessment development stage: UK support organisations
MHRA is the regulatory agency responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK by ensuring they work and are acceptably safe. Robust and fact-based judgements underpin all the work carried out to ensure that the benefits justify any risks.
MHRA Innovation Office is a single point of access to expert regulatory information, advice and guidance that helps organisations of all backgrounds and sizes develop innovative medicines, medical devices or novel manufacturing processes. They provide expert knowledge, guidance and experience to help develop products and save time and money.
NICE’s Medical Technologies Evaluation Programme identifies medical technologies that have the potential to offer substantial benefit to patients and/or to the NHS and are likely to be adopted more consistently and more rapidly if NICE develops guidance on them.
NICE SA offers a fee-based consultancy service.
The SMC accepts for use those newly licensed medicines that clearly represent good value for money to NHS Scotland. It analyses information supplied by the medicine manufacturer on the health benefits of the medicine and justification of its price.
The consortium is made up of lead clinicians, pharmacists and health economists together with representatives of health boards, the pharmaceutical industry and the public.
The Information Standard helps people to identify reliable sources of high quality information through the use of an easily recognised quality mark.
Delivery, supply and NHS / patient development stage: UK support organisations
Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs)
The AHSNs facilitates access into the NHS and aligns education, clinical research, informatics, innovation, training and healthcare delivery providing a network aimed at supporting the adoption and dissemination of innovative technologies.
There are 15 AHSNs across England, and each AHSN works across a distinct geography serving a different population in each region.
CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area. CCGs commission most of the hospital and community NHS services in the local areas for which they are responsible.
DigitalHealth.London brings together clinicians with healthcare providers, entrepreneurs and industry to speed up the adoption and commercialisation of digital health technologies and signpost clear routes to market for entrepreneurs.
National Health Service (NHS)
The NHS, launched in 1948, is the largest unified healthcare system in the world. It was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth, and remains free at the point of use for anyone who is a UK resident. That is currently more than 64.1 million people in the UK.
NHS England sets the priorities and direction for the NHS in England. It shares out more than £100 billion in funds on commissioning of health care services and holds organisations to account for spending this money effectively.
NHS Scotland is the publicly funded healthcare system in Scotland. Health and social care policy and funding are the responsibility of the Health and Social Care Directorates of the Scottish Government. NHS Scotland currently employs about 140,000 staff who work across 14 territorial NHS Boards, 7 special NHS Boards and 1 public health body.
NHS Northern Ireland provides the gateway to health and social care services in Northern Ireland. It links to the hospital and community services provided by the 6 Health Trusts, General Practices, Health and Social Care Board and other health and social care agencies. The Northern Ireland Executive, through the Health Department is responsible for the funding of the service.
NHS Wales is the official corporate name of the Welsh National Health Service, the publicly funded healthcare system which is the responsibility of the devolved Welsh Government. There are 7 Local Health Boards (LHBs) in Wales and 3 national NHS Trusts. Each is responsible for delivering all NHS healthcare services within a geographical area. Three NHS Trusts, called ‘all-Wales trusts’, operate nationwide agencies and services.
There are several routes to market for companies interested in supplying goods and services to the NHS.
The NIB’s role is to put data and technology safely to work for patients, service users, citizens and the professionals who serve them. The board brings together national health and care organisations from the NHS, public health, clinical science, social care and local government, along with appointed independent representatives to develop the strategic priorities for data and technology.
NICE Office for Market Access (NICE OMA)
NICE OMA provides expert advice to the life sciences industry.
NIHR Clinical Research Network (NIHR CRN)
NIHR CRN is the research delivery arm of the NHS in England. One of its priorities is to proactively support the life-sciences industry to deliver high quality commercial contract clinical research across all therapeutic areas within the NHS. Their free-of-charge study support service helps life-science organisations effectively find investigators and sites, set-up and deliver studies to time and target.
The Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare supports and guides the development of telehealth and telecare throughout Scotland. This involves working across boundaries with industry, academia, local authorities, NHS Boards and voluntary and independent sectors to develop recognised models for redesigning health and care services.
The SMC accepts for use those newly licensed medicines that clearly represent good value for money to NHS Scotland. SMC analyses information supplied by the medicine manufacturer on the health benefits of the medicine and justification of its price. The consortium is made up of lead clinicians, pharmacists and health economists together with representatives of health boards, the pharmaceutical industry and the public.
Launch global access development stage: UK support organisations
DIT is the government department that helps UK-based companies succeed globally and assists overseas companies to bring investment to the UK.
DIT’s combined network of government and private-sector specialists in the UK and in British Embassies and Consulates throughout the world offer practical advice and free and confidential support.
LSO helps UK life science companies do business overseas and encourages foreign life science companies to invest in the UK. It provides support from the earliest stages of research and development through to clinical trials, commercial operations and business partnerships.
Healthcare UK is a joint initiative of DHSC, DIT and NHS England.
Healthcare UK helps UK healthcare providers do more business overseas by:
- promoting the UK healthcare sector to overseas markets
- supporting healthcare partnerships between the UK and overseas healthcare providers
NICE OMA provides expert advice to the life sciences industry.
UK life science membership associations and networking organisations
Find UK life science membership associations and networking organisations who can aid business growth, competitiveness and innovation in the life sciences sector.
UK regional agencies
The UK’s regions are home to many centres of scientific excellence. Regional agencies which can help grow international trade and investment in the life sciences sector include: