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Following the publication of Innovation Health and Wealth in December 2011 the Department of Health agreed to work with the NHS, universities and industry to designate Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN). The first networks are to go live in 2012/13. The ambition is that all NHS organisations will have the opportunity to be part of an AHSN by the end of March 2014.
The Department of Health has recently published guidance on the designation process. In an effort to build on the enthusiasm for the process the Department of Health is asking for expressions of interest for local AHSNs by 20 July 2012. The key elements of this guidance are set out below.
AHSNs are locally owned and run partnership organisations designed to help transform health outcomes and the delivery of healthcare in England. This is to be achieved by bringing together local NHS, higher education institutions and other stakeholders in the healthcare industry to focus on the identification, adoption and spread of innovative healthcare across a network.
The work of AHSNs is to be supported by a five-year licence and funding arrangement for delivery of a range of defined functions. The licence will be both an agreement between the network partners and the NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) to work together to improve patient care and population health and also a contract to deliver defined tasks and outcomes for which the AHSN will received significant annual funding from the NCB.
AHSNs will have six core functions:
Participation in the AHSN is voluntary and is open to CCGs, NHS funded service providers, higher education institutions engaged in health and care, and other organisations within the industry. Applications for designations will take the form of a prospectus which will include aspects such as:
The application will be assessed by a panel arranged by the NCB. The panel will make recommendations to the NCB on whether to approve the application, approve it with conditions, or defer it.
Local NHS organisations are being asked to work together and contact potential partners with a view to applying for AHSN designation. Initial expressions of interest in making an AHSN application in the autumn 2012 should be submitted to email@example.com by 20 July 2012.
Before making an expression of interest, discussions should be held with the SHA and other potential partners to avoid conflict with others in the same geographical area. An AHSN is anticipated to cover a population of around 3 to 5 million people.
The expression of interest should be no more than 2 sides of A4 and set out the overall vision, goals, proposed footprint, membership and affiliated partners.
The AHSN application must set out the membership and participation model for the network and AHSNs are encouraged to establish themselves as incorporated bodies with a clear public interest. Applicants should also be clear about the financial and legal decisions that are required to underpin the creation of the AHSN.
Bevan Brittan LLP can advise you on the legal issues that you will encounter in setting up your AHSN including:
Our advice draws on our experience of advising on the
establishment of social enterprises in the health and other sectors
and on research and development.