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.

In the 20th century, we built a healthcare system to manage acute problems. It was based on the signature tech of that time: highly-educated clinicians, medical equipment and state-of-the-art buildings. Chronic disease is the 21st century’s public health crisis. But we are not doing enough to deploy today’s signature technologies in response.

The answer is a systemic shift to people powered health enabled by technology. This transformation means developing better kinds of networks to support each other and changing the way we consult doctors. It also means getting better at how we use patient data, inside and outside the NHS.

Our recommendations

1. A pledge to provide peer support for every long-term conditions patient who wants it, in order to realise the commitment to empowering patients in the NHS Five Year Forward View. To kick start this:

  • A £40 million investment over the next three years in a Million Peer Initiative, so that one million people each year can participate in peer support, and to strengthen the evidence for this approach.
  • A new suite of digital peer resources to embed these support networks online.

2. People need more power over when and how their health data is shared. Government should give patients easy access to all their data in a genuinely machine readable format, building on the GP Open API Architecture Policy. This initiative should be accompanied by a well-designed governance framework, safeguarding patient authority over their personal information. Informed patients may choose to use this to analyse their own condition or donate data for use in medical research.

3. A new Digital Health Advanced Research Programme to build the field of digital health – developing technology and better evidence for how to deliver systemic change. This initiative will follow the example of the US’s DARPA and ARPA-E, channeling procurement earmarked for the SBRI programme to back innovative digital health technologies.

4. The National Information Board leads a review of the potential value of novel kinds of data collection for health research. This should focus on combining sensing data with traditional medical research methods in order to improve our knowledge of how chronic conditions affect individuals. It should aim to lead to new mechanisms for prototyping and trialing treatment.