Enabling innovation and adoption in health and social care: Developing a shared view

Published: 4 February 2021 Page last updated: 8 February 2021
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Innovation can be a powerful tool for improving the health and social care that people receive, but the evidence suggests that we are not taking full advantage.


Despite advances in technology and care models, the health and social care system in England could be better at spreading the best innovations and maximising the benefits for people who use services.

Health and social care providers have a crucial role in changing this situation. To help them do this, national bodies working across the health and care system have come together to develop a shared understanding of what providers need to do to innovate well and how regulators and other national bodies can support them to do this.

This work has pointed to 6 principles that are crucial for providers to be more effective at innovating. The principles are based on reviews of the literature on innovation, CQC reports and engagement with over 60 health and social care organisations.


  • Develop and deploy innovations with the people that will use them
  • Develop a culture where innovation can happen
  • Support your people
  • Adopt the best ideas and share your learning
  • Focus on outcomes and impact
  • Be flexible when managing change

Providers, regulators and other organisations sometimes miss out on better approaches to innovation because of some common misconceptions.

Innovation is sometimes interpreted as inventing new things only, when adoption and the spread of innovation is often more important to delivering benefits to people who use services.

When we do adopt what has worked elsewhere, we sometimes expect it to work straight “out of the box”. We underestimate the importance of adapting innovation to the local context and getting the implementation right. And we sometimes assume that innovation is only for the biggest and best organisations, when it can be an important way for all organisations to address their own challenges. Tackling these misconceptions is an important step towards building a health and social care system that supports more effective innovation.

These 6 principles can help health and social care providers to understand how they can get better at innovating – but national bodies also need to build on these findings to improve what they do.

The Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) at NHS England and NHS Improvement will build on this publication and develop a strategy to increase the health system’s capacity to adopt innovation, while the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will work to consistently apply these principles in its regulation.

Health Education England (HEE) will help leaders and staff to develop their capability to innovate and implement digital technologies. The National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) will use the findings in this paper to continue to develop innovative solutions across health and social care and encourage colleagues to come together to think differently.

The National Care Forum (NCF) is part of the Care Provider Alliance, which is working in partnership with NHS Digital and Skills for Care on the Digital Social Care project. It will continue to champion the voice of care providers in creating and shaping innovation in care delivery to improve the quality of care.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will continue to work with system partners to encourage and support a quality and safety-focused approach, in which commissioners and providers use NICE guidance and other NICE-accredited sources to improve outcomes.

NHSX will work with regions, providers and commissioners to help scale digital innovation. The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) will use the innovation principles to support innovation in the sector via the Social Care Innovation Network (SCIN).

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