About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Nesta's work on Personalised Care

An overview of Nesta's work on people powered health and its impact on the national personalisation strategy

Last week, NHS England set out how they will implement a comprehensive model of Universal Personalised Care, building on the Long Term Plan’s ambition to make personalised care business as usual across the health and care system. Nesta were one of several co-signatories to the plan and we welcome it as a major achievement.

Consensus has been growing over recent years that people should be supported to actively shape their health and care, but this plan is a step-change in two ways.

Firstly, in profile. Recognising Personalisation as one of the five elements of the new NHS service model is a major leap into the mainstream – a breakthrough from ‘nice to have’ to essential.

Secondly, the plan operationalises the agenda in ways that have not been previously achieved. It translates vague concepts like ‘social prescribing’ into an implementable model that – importantly – is recognisable to the formal health and care system.

So in both profile and specification this plan represents a new era for people having a voice, being informed and having control over their health, care and wellbeing.

The plan is also a culmination of the work of many people across different fields and over several decades – much of it outside of the NHS. The disability movement has driven some of the biggest innovations in social policy in recent years, including personal budgets, which form an essential element of personalisation. The vibrant voluntary, community and social enterprise sector has successfully innovated models of peer support and recovery, health coaching and much more. The strategy also builds on innovation from within the health and care system, often led by pioneering clinicians, such as shared decision-making.

'We are proud of the work we’ve done with partners that has helped to make this happen'

At Nesta we have contributed to the body of research and practice underpinning the plan through our work with partners on ‘people powered health’. This work began 10 years ago with a set of research reports on co-production, exploring the benefits of sharing power with citizens, and has since included:

Through our work we have sought to build on the determination and strength of innovators demanding more equal and shared models of power in health. These innovators have sometimes been people with lived experience, sometimes clinicians, sometimes voluntary sector organisations, sometimes managers and commissioners in formal services. Wherever they are, they have shown that a more people-powered approach to health, care and wellbeing is not just possible, it’s essential for both citizens and the system:

  • The social, psychological and behavioural aspects of health are as important as the biomedical.
  • Genuinely listening to what people want is a way to build trust and motivation towards healthier lives.
  • The voluntary, community and social enterprise sector have a key role in supporting people to live better with ongoing health conditions and wider support needs.

All of these principles have been incorporated into the Universal Personalised Care plan and we are proud of the work we’ve done with partners that has helped to make this happen.

However like any plan, the real success lies in the execution and questions remain about how the plan can turn into reality for thousands and ultimately millions of people. There’s the issue of funding and also whether it can be done without becoming another ‘tick box’.

But amongst the challenges left to address, let’s also celebrate what it has been achieved to reach this point of recognition and specification. Let’s acknowledge the distance travelled and tireless work of innovators both inside and outside of the formal health and care system who have demanded this shift. At Nesta we’ve been committed to this change and warmly welcome this plan as a stepping stone towards changing lives for the better.


Halima Khan

Halima Khan

Halima Khan

Executive Director, Health, People and Impact

Halima was the Executive Director of the Health, People and Impact. She led Nesta’s work in health and also oversaw people (human resources) and impact for the organisation.

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