Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) were created by NHS England in 2013 to transform the way the health service identifies, adopts and spreads promising innovations. In the decade since then AHSNs have worked with partners across the NHS, research and industry to improve health outcomes and support economic growth. This page highlights some of the key impacts of the Oxford AHSN.
Harnessing AI technology speeds up access to stroke care
The Oxford AHSN is working with 24 hospitals across England to evaluate brain imaging technology called e-Stroke which utilises AI to detect stroke patients suitable for thrombectomy and shares high quality CT brain scans across hospitals quickly and securely. This supports clinical decision-making and rapid access to treatment, reducing long-term disability and improving patient outcomes. The approach has led to more stroke patients receiving mechanical thrombectomy (MT) – an NHS Long Term Plan priority. Rates in evaluation sites have risen from 1.5% to up to 8%, compared to the overall national figure of 2.9%.
Maternity and neonatal care
Better diagnosis of pre-eclampsia improves patient safety and reduces burden on maternity services
Quick, accurate blood tests known as PlGF are helping rule out pre-eclampsia, a serious complication during pregnancy. Within four years of the first real world evaluation in Oxford there has been widespread adoption of PlGF testing into everyday clinical practice following a rapid adoption project led by AHSNs. This has reduced unnecessary hospital admissions and enabled maternity services to focus on those women who need closer monitoring. By April 2022, 86% of eligible maternity units in England had either adopted or were implementing PlGF testing, benefitting an estimated 35,000 pregnancies per year.
Improving asthma care through innovative diagnostics and life-changing treatments
Thousands of people are benefitting from improved access to diagnostics and treatments for asthma thanks to two national programmes led by Oxford and Wessex AHSNs which have transformed patient pathways. This has led to better symptom management, fewer asthma attacks and reduced long-term side effects related to other treatments. Almost 5,000 people have been initiated onto innovative biologic treatments and 58,000 have been diagnosed faster and more accurately thanks to fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) testing. AHSNs supported asthma pathway improvements by providing clinical leadership, sharing best practice and developing supporting materials.
Sleep improvement programme reduces anxiety
The Oxford AHSN led the first large-scale NHS roll-out of direct access digital medicine in partnership with Big Health, the company behind Sleepio, a digital sleep improvement programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy. It was embedded in local systems by developing relationships with local communities, employers and primary care and around 28,000 people accessed Sleepio. Outcomes included a 56% fall in use of sleep medication and a drop in anxiety symptoms of 70%. Independent evaluation by the Office of Health Economics estimated potential savings to the NHS in England over three years of £99m. NICE subsequently recommended Sleepio as a treatment for insomnia.
Hospital at home
Helping more patients get their medication at home instead of in hospital
Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) and the Oxford AHSN have developed a package of resources to support other NHS organisations wanting to deliver intravenous (IV) antibiotics to patients in their own homes. The OUH began using elastomeric devices to deliver IV antibiotics in patients’ homes in 2019 through ‘hospital at home’ nursing teams. Previously patients needing IV medication several times a day could only get it in hospital – even if they were otherwise well enough to be at home. Being able to receive IV medication at home 24 hours a day has led to patients spending less time in hospital and avoiding unnecessary journeys into hospital. By April 2023, 230 OUH patients had benefitted, with 3,200 hospital bed days freed up and £1 million of costs avoided. The new resources include a ‘how to’ guide and a series of supporting videos. The initiative is funded by Health Education England which is supporting roll-out across the South East.
Keeping patients safe and well at home
The three AHSNs covering South East England worked closely with system partners on the rapid roll-out of two major Covid programmes: home oximetry and virtual wards which cared for almost 20,000 at the peak of the pandemic. AHSNs are following up this award-winning approach by supporting integrated care systems in the ongoing development of virtual wards and elective recovery.