Making healthy connections

Doing business with the NHS just got easier for Lancashire SMEs.

A new support programme aims to help Lancashire businesses with products or services of interest to the NHS make the right connections.

Healthcare Business Connect Lancashire (HBCL) aims to build “capacity and capability” into county SMEs working in the health and life sciences sector and at the same time ensure high-quality patient care that is “better, safer, faster and cost-effective”.

Support is tailored to help pre start-ups, and new and established businesses develop and grow their products and services.

HBCL offers them access to NHS and social care staff, patients and carers, along with university evaluators and academics.

Over the next three years the aim is to support 100 new and existing SMEs, enabling them to create 60 new jobs and launch 25 new products.

HBCL is a partnership between the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, and Lancaster Health Hub, part of Lancaster University.

The partnership is focused on business growth through acceleration, adoption and the spread of innovation in health and social care, and is funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The programme offers an impressive package of clinical and commercial assistance and support.

SMEs will receive a minimum of 12 hours free assistance covering a range of topics from market access advice to support for innovation and research applications.

There’s also help with procurement advice, help on regulatory approval, access to business planning tools and one-to-one coaching.

The programme also offers guidance on pitching and presenting, can signpost businesses to other initiatives and will offer regular healthcare market focused events.

Dr Liz Mear, chief executive at the agency, who also chairs NHS North West Procurement Development, says: “It’s hard for small businesses with great new products to break into the NHS – even when there is proof that the products can improve care and save time and money. “HBCL is a great way for a business to get an introduction to the NHS, receive  support to develop the product further and navigate NHS procurement.

“The partnership between the Innovation Agency and Lancaster University allows us to look at a product from all angles and smooth any bumps along the way supporting products to market.”

Andrew Leeming, Boost programme manager at Lancashire County Council, adds: “What’s unique and exciting about the Healthcare Business Connect Lancashire programme is a focus on health and wealth.

“Boost has already referred Lancashire businesses to them and the feedback we’ve had from the businesses has been excellent, they are a superb asset to the business support landscape and we look forward to sharing many more successful stories through our Growth Hub.”

The project is currently working with businesses refining and adopting ideas and products in areas that include patient self-management, healthcare technology, diagnostic support, community-based provision, carer support and mental health services. However, it is interested in helping all health and social care innovations. Steve Adams, commercial business manager for the Innovation Agency, says: “If you have an innovation or product that can make care and services better, safer, faster and cost-effective then contact us now for help in achieving your ambitions.”