Innovation in the NHS: Strategies for Future Sustainability and Impact

Doctor with glowing light bulb



The National Health Service (NHS), in common with most other healthcare systems in high-income countries, is under pressure to meet the growing demand for healthcare services with limited resources. NHS England anticipates that the population’s need for healthcare services will continue to grow faster than the funding available for those services.

The Department of Health has identified improving the uptake and diffusion of innovation within the NHS as an important way of responding to this challenge. Even without this pressure the need to deliver good value for money would also dictate the need to ensure that innovations should be exploited wherever they presented more effective and efficient ways to meet needs.

Although the NHS has a history of pioneering health innovations, it has traditionally been better at their development than at their diffusion and adoption. There is a need to explore the most sustainable and effective means for enabling innovation to contribute to NHS priorities for high quality cost-effective and safe, patient-centred care.


The overall aim of this project is to enrich the evidence base on innovation in the NHS and to provide specific and actionable lessons to help improve the impact of innovation efforts on the quality and cost-effectiveness of NHS services, for patient benefit.

Our research questions include:

  • How is innovation embraced in NHS organisations?
  • Who drives and contributes to innovation and what types of organisational models are most conducive to effective and high-impact innovation processes and outcomes?
  • What are the outcomes, impacts and costs of innovation?
  • How can the impacts and cost-effectiveness of innovation be improved?


The project team will use a mixed-methods approach, combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. Investigations will be implemented through comparative case studies of four regional health economies which will help enrich the evidence base concerning how innovation happens in the NHS, when and why it is embraced, and what types of working practices and organisational models are most conducive to the uptake of innovation for patient benefit.

We will also examine the interplay of regional and national innovation policy and draw nationally-relevant, cross-cutting insights on sustainable drivers and strategies for innovation in the health system. This will be complemented with quantitative analyses to provide evidence on the extent to which innovation policy decisions represent desirable and optimal resource allocations.

Project Team

Sonja Marjanovic (RAND Europe)
Tom Ling (RAND Europe)
Joanna Chataway (RAND Europe)
Ruth McDonald (University of Manchester)
Stuart Parris (RAND Europe)
Celine Miani (RAND Europe)
Sarah Parks (RAND Europe)
Emma Harte (RAND Europe)
Megan Sim (RAND Europe)
Katherine Stewart (RAND Europe)
Matt Sutton (University of Manchester)