One of the most frequent queries the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) Team is asked by entrepreneurs and innovators is how to best engage with commissioners and CCGs. We asked two of our CCG colleagues for their insights… 

George Absi
Self Care Implementation Lead
North West London Collaboration of CCGs

“I think that it is really important that developers know their keys strengths of their product: their selling points to NHS organisations – what makes them stand out, adds value and separates them from others.

“This sounds obvious, however these should align to the priorities of NHS organisations. For example, reducing emergency admissions and/or hospital admissions, enabling more care in the community, improving patient safety, self care and/or releasing efficiency savings.

“It is important for developers to think about evidence-base and having some evaluation (which may be on-going) of their product. Also, if they have a clinician – either consultant or nurse specialist – who is keen on their product and can champion it for them. This all adds credibility to the initiative. Getting clinical lead/clinician buy-in is essential for a robust implementation process. Try and obtain this as early as possible.”

Shamoly Aaron
(Interim) Digital Transformation Programme Manager
NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG and NHS Southend CCG

“Remember – no commissioners or CCGs are the same. The approach to engaging with them will therefore vary and multiple channels of engagement should be deployed. You may also be one of many approaches they regularly receive – how will you stand out?

“Stratify the commissioners/CCGs you need to approach – understand their priorities via background research on your part. Reading through key documents – CCG Commissioning Intention, operating plans, STP Local Digital Roadmap including council Health & Wellbeing Strategies and Joint Strategic Needs Assessment – will help to understand how your innovation could support their plans/key performance indicators (KPIs). This means a better informed discussion with them, not to mention the positive impression you will have created as a result – hopefully securing a call back at next commissioning round or a referral to one of their colleagues.

“Delivering services involves a balanced decision-making process: commissioning cost effectively with maximum benefit to patients and workforce is the goal. Demonstrating return on investment, therefore, either short-term or longer-term specific to the CCG/commissioning patient cohort group will gain engagement. Show how you can support their targets and have hard evidence of your innovation – i.e. business case, implementation toolkit, economic analysis, and case studies demonstrating benefits to patients and service.

“Communication skills are essential for initial engagement as building relationships will be key to sustaining what you hope will be a long-term partnership. The language and applying the right terminology are all part of this skill. Don’t apply ‘hard selling tactics’ and it always helps if you can find someone to make a warm introduction. Where possible, engage in key events – i.e. CCG annual general meetings, commissioning intention public events, local Healthwatch events, AHSN events, etc. Make yourself and your innovation seem indispensable in these meetings. Your very first words at any subsequent meeting will be to ask: “how can we help?”, demonstrating willingness to respond to local need and feedback. Remember to listen intently to their issues and be sure to say that you have the solution that will work in their targeted communities.

“In a nutshell – do your research, be sure to listen, demonstrate clear tailored benefits, network via key events and use these to widen your engagement channels even further.”