The government and NHS England have confirmed their intention to relaunch England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) under the new name of Health Innovation Networks (HINs), to reflect their key role in supporting development and spread of innovations across health services.

It was announced, following last week’s Life Sciences Council meeting, that NHS England would commission the HINs for five years, until 2028.

NHSE set up AHSNs in 2013 to act as innovation arms of the NHS and work locally and nationally to support the spread of all types of innovation within thew NHS, from new technologies to ways of working and service improvements.

They also provide bespoke support to innovators to accelerate promising innovations from development to adoption and boost economic growth.

AHSNs began working collectively as the national AHSN Network from 2018, when the first set of national programmes were adopted. Since then, AHSNs have delivered 11 national adoption and spread programmes and supported the rapid uptake of 28 NICE-approved products.

These initiatives alone have benefited more than 2.3 million patients. AHSNs have also helped to leverage investment of more than £1.8bn for UK Plc in the same timeframe.

Professor Gary Ford, chair of the AHSN Network and chief executive of Oxford AHSN, said: “Under the new banner of Health Innovation Networks each organisation will continue to support local innovation and transformation working with their Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) within their region, support innovators to develop innovations to address local needs, and come together as a national network to evaluate and spread promising solutions at scale.

“The challenges facing the NHS will only be met by widespread adoption of innovation in digital and diagnostic technology and in data to transform clinical pathways and empower patients.”

The new licence will come into effect from 1 October 2023. More information about the roll out of the new licences, priority programmes and collaboration with NHS England and the Office for Life Sciences, will follow during the summer.

Matt Whitty, director of innovation, research and life sciences for NHS England, said: “The Academic Health Science Networks play a key role in driving the uptake of health innovation and economic growth, enabling patients to benefit from earlier diagnosis, more effective treatments, and faster recovery.

“The renamed network will have a critical role to play in supporting the new Integrated Care Systems to adopt innovations and will be aligned to NHS priorities such as tackling health inequalities and fulfilling the Life Science’s Vision to deliver improved public services and grow the economy.”

Various AHSNs are continuing to help digitise the healthcare sector and enhance the lives of clinicians and patients. In January, West Midlands AHSN called for business and industry professionals to express interest in its latest project to advance the local medical drone industry.