Plans for an Academic Health Science Partnership (AHSP) that would “present opportunities to conduct clinical trials at a large and meaningful scale and to apply research findings to benefit a greater number of patients” have been announced by Imperial College London and 11 healthcare providers in North West London.

The hope is that the AHSP will be formally launched in April 2012, serving a local population of 1.9 million.  

A proposal to develop the Partnership, which would bring together providers of primary, secondary, tertiary, community and mental healthcare in North West London to work with Imperial College in the pursuit of higher-quality care for patients, was formulated by Lord Darzi, Paul Hamlyn chair of surgery at Imperial College London and former parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department of Health.

Imperial College London and the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust are already partners in the Imperial Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC), which was set up in 2007. The AHSC would continue to integrate healthcare services with teaching and research between the College and the Trust, and would be complementary to the AHSP, Imperial noted.  

Different propositions

As Lord Darzi explains in his proposal, Academic Health Science Partnerships and Centres were from the outset “fundamentally different propositions. For the partnerships, the goal was to scale up on a whole-population basis the evidence base for high quality care – with the emphasis as much on scale as on speed. For the integrated model, the goal was to move at pace to bring new practice from the bench to the bedside”.

The rationale for an AHSP is “the pursuit of innovation and improvement at scale” in an environment where it takes “too long for the evidence created by research to be translated into routine clinical practice”, Lord Darzi adds.

The Partnership would be a platform for the NHS and academic institutions to drive the systematic implementation of good clinical practice, introduce innovations in service delivery, work together on improvement initiatives and take a leading role in professional education and training.

It would also, Lord Darzi says, “present great opportunities to deepen and widen the development and application of research, bringing to bear the research capabilities and infrastructure of leading academic organisations”.

The AHSP would “enable population-based research; it would facilitate the conduct of clinical trials at scale; it would enable applied research in the adoption of innovation in service redesign; it presents an opportunity to see the evidence-base translated into practical pathways for patient care – and for the impact to be researched”.

The partners

Other than Imperial College London, the institutions and healthcare providers that have agreed to progress plans for the AHSP are:

 Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust; Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust; Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Ealing Hospital NHS Trust; Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust; Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust; North West London Hospitals NHS Trust; Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust; West London Mental Health Trust; and West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust.

Lord Darzi has agreed to chair the Transitional Partnership Board that will confirm the membership of the AHSP as well as determining its organisational and legal structure. The Board will include the rector of Imperial College London, the chief executives of the Trusts that have agreed to progress plans, and a representative of general practitioners.