The government announced yesterday that it is injecting £10 million into a new scheme that aims to encourage the uptake of new innovative ideas throughout the health service by setting up local ‘education clusters’ designed to improve the knowledge and skills of NHS staff.

The concept of Health Innovation and Education Clusters - first announced by Lord Ara Darzi last year in his report on the future of the NHS High Quality Care for All – was borne out of the growing need to address the slow uptake and long-term development of new, innovative ideas by the health service.

The idea of HIECs is to create partnerships between academia and industry that will ultimately embed innovation into practice by improving the quality and timeliness of education and training offered to healthcare professionals, so that it becomes more responsive to new developments and thereby improves the quality of patient care.

Essentially, the clusters will be multi-professional education and innovation networks comprised of partners from the NHS, higher education and industry. And governed by a partnership board, they will each have a defined function and budget, according to the Department of Health.

'Exciting opportunity'
Dr Moira Livingston, Strategic Head of Workforce and acting Postgraduate Dean and Director for North East SHA, said the scheme offers “an exciting opportunity” that will “drive up quality standards in education and training and ensure fast adoption of innovation for the benefit of local people”.

Furthermore, she claims that the flexibility of the model fits in with government’s regional vision of healthcare by enabling the development of HIECs “in ways which are appropriate and specific to our local area”.

The £10 million put up by the government has been earmarked for funding the establishment of the first batch of clusters, which will be announced in September this year following a four-month bidding process.