The NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA), is an award-winning national accelerator which supports committed individuals (‘Fellows’) to scale high impact, evidence-based innovations across the NHS and wider healthcare system.

The NIA is an NHS England initiative delivered in partnership with England’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), and hosted at UCLPartners. Launched in 2015 to support delivery of the Five Year Forward View, the NIA is highlighted in the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019.

Why is the NHS Innovation Accelerator important?

  • Solution identification: Go-to place for the NHS to find nationally endorsed solutions for critical challenges and top priorities for NHS staff and patients.
  • Supporting national spread: NIA innovations are already being used in the NHS or elsewhere, have a robust evidence base, and have been rigorously selected.
  • Real-world knowledge sharing: Capturing insight, learning and expertise on how to spread new solutions across the NHS
    in England.
  • Unlocking barriers nationally: Using real-world examples to highlight barriers to innovation spread and inform national policy change.

As part of its annual international Call, the NIA invites applications from exceptional individuals representing innovations which address a clear need or challenge faced by the NHS. To be appointed as an NIA Fellow, applicants need to demonstrate a set of values and passion for spreading their innovation to benefit more people across the country, and a willingness to openly share their learnings and experiences for others to benefit.

Fellows come from a range of backgrounds, including clinical, industry and academia. The current cohort includes a consultant obstetrician, a speech and language therapist, a former management consultant, an engineer, a pharmacist, a former police officer, and a social worker. The multi-stage selection process is robust and competitive. It involves the expertise of over 100 patients, clinicians, commercial experts, clinical governance leads, improvement directors, etc. from a wide range of organisations, including NHS England, AHSNs, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), and The Health Foundation.

Spotlight on NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellows: ORCHA

ORCHA website displayed on a computer

North West based ORCHA is part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme and leads the world in helping health services to safely embed health apps into patient pathways. It’s reviewed around 6,000 apps to date. ORCHA works with CCGs and NHS Trusts to develop local health app libraries and prescription services which fit with systems and

Although there are over 325,000 health apps available today, there are no regulations on app stores. This leaves health professionals and the public with limited guidance on which apps could make a significant improvement to health and which are dangerous. More than 90% of health professionals think apps could help their patients but don’t know which ones to trust. So app usage and contribution within the NHS remains untapped.


Teams across Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Bolton Royal NHS Foundation Trust today work with ORCHA with dedicated libraries of tested and approved apps that their health professionals can search and prescribe to patients.  Teams are using apps in a wide range of services, from occupational health and physio, to community nursing and psychology services.

Liz Ashall-Payne, ORCHA’s chief executive and NIA Fellow, said: “We can see the passion in the team to make Manchester one of the best places to live in the world. Health Innovation Manchester make a difference in that, connecting us to organisations where there is a real need, where apps will make a difference to patients.”

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