Q&A: How Trustech works with the NHS; plus trends in healthcare innovation

Raj Purewal, business development and partnerships director at Trustech who allow companies to develop products used in the NHS, explains its commitment to driving improvements to UK health and social care through innovation, and how it helps healthtech SMEs break into the NHS.

Who does Trustech work with?

Our role at Trustech is to capture, develop and introduce innovative ideas, technologies and services that improve citizen and patient care; effectively helping the NHS and its constituent organisations implement the latest innovations, and helping companies with new products or services to engage effectively with the NHS.

What differentiates us from all other healthcare consultancies is that Trustech was originally set up by the Department of Health. Our position within the NHS allows us to objectively communicate the needs and challenges of the NHS organisations and clinicians we work with. This unique knowledge means that we’re ideally positioned to help the commercial sector truly collaborate with the NHS.

Our peerless connections with the NHS give us enduring, in-depth and up-to-date insight about how the national service works and how the wider NHS is planning to introduce and ultimately implement changes. Due to the extensive insight we have, all our clients trust us to give them the best advice on how to work in this area.

What kind of work does Trustech do with healthtech companies?

Trustech acts as the dynamic access and entry point for UK, EU and global healthcare companies that are seeking to introduce their innovative products and services to the NHS; reducing the businesses time, cost and effort in attempting to access the market.

This includes activity such as: gathering NHS intelligence, marketing information, support to engage with NHS teams, or training and education around the NHS ecosystem. For healthtech companies, we can assist them with understanding how the NHS works and what it needs, identify the NHS staff they need to speak with, and facilitate in-situ evaluations of their innovations – also known as Healthcare Technology Assessments (HTAs).

Understanding the complexity of the NHS is key for any organisation wanting to break into the public healthcare market because it is, without question, a multi-faceted business environment.

Our STEP INto Healthcare programme, delivered by Trustech (in partnership with Health Innovation Manchester and the Business Growth Hub), helps SMEs improve their pitch to potential investors and customers, thereby helping their chances of success.

The intensive support programme is designed for businesses with aspirations to scale-up, and has already helped a number of SMEs and provided them with access to networks, strategic knowledge and market opportunities, through one-to-one support and a number of workshops with leading industry experts.

We also help with other areas such as funding; sourcing and applying for the right type of funding stream.

What trends have you seen emerging in healthcare innovation?

We feel that we are privileged to be at the centre of numerous innovations, from developing educational and training programmes, to pioneering medical equipment and devices; and supporting some of the best ideas that help improve health and social care delivery.

With our Health Technology Assessments, our team helps to qualify, develop and test these new technologies, and advise on how they can be adapted or adopted for use in the NHS.  The projects themselves range from technologically inventive medtech products to more unique products, such as SAGE & THYME; a training package that equips staff to always communicate with compassion and objectivity.

What do you see as the current challenges for healthtech companies/SMEs?

Before approaching anyone in the NHS, or even starting to develop a solution, SMEs and entrepreneurs need to be aware of the current situation in health and social care.  Consider the growing population, its demographics and associated costs, declining budgets, and limitation of resources; remember that although the NHS has a huge budget which provides great opportunities, it is a highly challenging market with expenditure and requests for time and resource challenged at every step.  This is why it is important to make sure claims about improving care and cost savings can be evidenced.

Adopting a new product or service into the NHS can be extremely challenging for an SME; not only is it a highly regulated sector, it also demands the value, ROI and tangible benefits of new solutions to be evidenced and communicated effectively.  For any budding innovators with plans to engage with the health service, my key piece of advice is to develop a clear value proposition (VP). The VP should be a credible and coherent set of claims that demonstrate the value of the product or service to health and care providers and their patients.

SMEs often find it challenging to articulate a compelling VP to NHS decision-makers. It needs to be tailored and specific to the NHS and it requires time and effort to create. The VP can make or break an idea and it’s important to avoid being so focused on the product’s features that you fail to properly examine the advantages that it can bring to the NHS.

What’s new, what should we be looking out for?

Innovation is an essential part of improvement in the NHS.  We really see ourselves as being in the position to transform the health and wellbeing of citizens in the UK and further afield.  As the NHS innovation experts, we believe that anyone can improve the NHS through innovative ideas.

Health innovations are needed in every corner of the world, and with a history of successful international projects and the success of our services in the UK, a promising future lies ahead.

Currently we are also noticing an increase in interest from overseas SMEs.  We recently developed and hosted a bespoke two day programme, designed to provide market advantage to Nordic start-ups and SMEs with aspirations to enter the UK healthcare market.  It attracted a large number of innovative health tech companies including: robotics, digital apps, software solutions, and other healthcare products.

Sharing best practice, knowledge and learning with other countries is essential in order to improve NHS services and attract the latest innovations from across the world, and this is certainly an area that is growing.


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