What will the year in which we’ll celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS bring?

My wish is that those people and businesses capable of delivering improvements in health and care are given time and resources to invest in collaborations that will produce impactful results, whether they are from the public sector, the private sector, or the charitable sector.

There is some public assistance available to support NHS managers and clinicians, including GPs, to gain time to progress their strategy for introducing innovation and for working at greater scale. I’d encourage those eligible to apply for assistance to do so and use some of the time gained to consider innovative collaboration.

There are many well publicised challenges in our health and care system that affect us all: rising demand for services due to our ageing population, people’s increasing health expectations and preventable illnesses; increasing bureaucracy and regulation; a fragmented NHS following the 2012 Lansley reforms, which imposed too many new organisational boundaries, and above all; insufficient public funding to support the continuation of services as we know them today. The Care Quality Commission, which regulates providers of health and care services in England and Wales has warned that services are straining at the seams.

Over the years, I have become convinced that sensibly framed collaboration plays a vital role in innovation, growth and transformation. I’ve been privileged to assist many health innovators to set the legal frameworks for their collaborations, covering a wide range of subject matter: collaborative R&D; development and commercialisation of medical devices; the launch of new IT products developed by clinicians and software developers; integrated clinical, occupational and housing services; and integrated social and health care services. There is a wide spectrum of collaboration, which at one end amounts to collaborative planning and at the other end amounts to forming a joint venture vehicle or even merger: There is a range of options in between and it is important to choose the right model to suit your purposes. Five things to take into account are:

  • It sounds obvious, but your collaboration should have a clear stated purpose that all parties agree;
  • You should cater properly for intellectual property rights, so that the participants can do what they need to and the purpose of the collaboration can be achieved;
  • There should be a clear governance structure stating who is responsible for operations;
  • You should consider what success/failure will look like and when and how to exit the collaboration, and;
  • You should cater for how disputes between the parties during the collaboration will be resolved.