In-depth review of spread and adoption approaches published by AHSN Network

Review identifies learning from the AHSNs on methods used with partners in the health and care sector to spread and adopt innovation.

Published: 19th May 2021

New review provides insight at an operational level, including insights on capacity and resources required for spread

An in-depth study examining approaches to spreading and adopting innovation in the health sector has been published by the AHSN Network to help AHSNs and our partners understand and harness the AHSN collective experience and expertise. As well as providing recommendations for the future, it identifies the different approaches used across the 15 AHSNs and highlights the complexity of spread work, the diversity of approaches and the influential factors.

This research provides the first aggregated view of approaches and challenges to spread and adoption across the AHSN Network, to help the AHSNs and our partners understand the complexity and variation. As well as mapping approaches across the AHSN Network, the review included a deep dive into the Transfers of Care Around Medicines (TCAM) national programme.

Professor Gary Ford, Chair of the AHSN Network and Chief Executive of Oxford AHSN said: “This review expands our knowledge base and will increase our capability to spread innovation in the NHS.

“Since our formation in 2013, the AHSNs have amassed significant expertise in the approaches and challenges to adoption and spread of innovation. The findings of this review highlight the considerations AHSNs take to their individual approach to adoption and spread and provides us with an overview, which will enable us to reflect and learn.

“The review highlights a number of factors to consider and different types of approaches, which will be of use to those in local and national systems trying to spread innovation.”

The review was commissioned and funded by the AHSN Network and the NHS England Innovation, Research and Life Sciences (IRLS) team. The research was undertaken by three study partners Wessex AHSN; South West AHSN; Centre for Healthcare Innovation Research (CHIR) at City, University of London.

All 15 AHSNs participated in the study, which took place from January to November 2020, studying spread and adoption activity between January 2018 and January 2020. 143 interviews were conducted with AHSN staff to identify approaches applied by each AHSN to local/regional and national spread programmes.

A synthesis of findings was used to develop conclusions and recommendations about spread and adoption for the AHSN Network.

Major findings from the review were:

  • A range of high-level and project level approaches to adoption and spread were identified and described in the report.
  • There was no single methodology or ‘one best way’ to do adoption and spread, reflecting the inherent complexity of adoption and spread work, and diversity of activities within AHSNs.
  • Flexibility with approaches is paramount due to the dynamic and multifaceted nature of health systems.
  • Despite some innovations being intrinsically ‘simple’; the contexts, people, and pathways they touch are usually complex, therefore adoption and spread are complex.
  • AHSNs reported success using whole-system and relationship/engagement-focused approaches, engaging existing networks and building new networks across sectors and organisations.
  • To spread innovation, it’s important to think ‘system’ and engage widely. This increases ownership within adoption sites from the start and supports sustainability.

The research highlights the depth of spread and adoption experience and expertise across the AHSN Network. The report concludes with 24 recommendations which the AHSNs and wider health system can learn and benefit from, increasing our capability to successfully spread innovation.

Read the report now

Read the full report, or you can read a summary of the report, including additional recommendations for the wider health and care system based on the findings.


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