Promoting innovation within the NHS has been a longstanding objective for healthcare professionals and policy makers, but it now promises to be given a game-changing boost. So, what’s changing, and will it help or hinder?
Guidance in the NHS Long Term Plan, the creation of the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative, as well as the development of the MedTech Funding Mandate, committed government and the NHS to accelerate the uptake of selected innovative medical devices, diagnostics, and digital products to patients faster.
Ensuring clinical adoption
The UK has a world-class medical technologies industry, but it is no secret that the NHS has experienced significant difficulties and hurdles when trying to encourage and adopt innovative medical devices.
From assessment, to implementation, to discussions around the value medical devices bring to patients, the NHS and budgets, there have been too many factors preventing patients from being able to access medical devices which could significantly improve patient outcomes in the short and long term. Even when innovative devices are available, there is still the huge challenge of making clinicians aware of them, and of the benefits any given innovation deliver, so ensuring their clinical adoption.
The Medical Technologies Directorate, which is due to release its now much delayed proposals in the summer, has been tasked with developing a strategy for innovative devices. It has been handed the responsibility of reviewing how technology is regulated, commissioned, and used as it looks to promote a thriving MedTech sector in the UK.
As we await the strategy, the Directorate has offered industry, clinicians, and other delivery partners an opportunity to work collaboratively to determine how best to improve patient outcomes, drive innovation and deliver value for money in the sector.
Step change innovation
The Directorate has already recognised certain challenges with the delivery and roll-out of innovative medical devices. Indeed, it is an ongoing challenge for the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS procurement teams to grasp what devices are truly innovative, given that many new medical devices manufactured and introduced to the market are innovative in their own, unique way.
There is also a much more in-depth discussion to be had on the definition of ‘innovation’ itself, with the Directorate geared to focus on the differences between incremental and step-change innovation, and the true value new devices deliver for patient outcomes and the NHS budget.
As the Directorate focuses on innovation, it mustn’t lose sight of patient safety and outcomes; both of which should remain of primary focus to industry, government, and clinicians. And for this to hold true, innovation of all kinds, whether it be incremental or step-change, should be encouraged and valued.
There will undoubtedly be innovative medical devices that are introduced to the market which will cost the NHS more in the short term, but the value for money and system wide savings the devices bring in the long-term may be far more substantial.
There will always be questions around meaningful choice for patients, too. Whether it be through improved demand-signalling, or by making the process easier for patients and clinicians to engage in shared decision making to select the most appropriate medical device to manage their condition. These are questions upon which industry must continue to engage with the Directorate, as the strategy is published this summer.
Based on dialogue with officials, I expect the strategy to identify and promote proactive demand-signalling from specialist clinicians as a real benefit in obtaining the best outcomes for patients, along with a thriving medtech sector. Whether that signalling is based upon qualitative or quantitative asks, or both, matters not so much as the fact that innovators will, for the first time in many specialist sectors, benefit from clear identification of the problems that need tech solutions.
Each ask will be a starting gun for the race to deliver that innovation. It will be competitive, and those that are nimble in responding and in obtaining development funds, are the innovators who will reap the reward. It should be a win/win contest for patients, clinicians, the medtech sector and UK PLC as a whole.
Industry must engage with policy development
The Health and Care Act is now on the statute book, and the Queen’s Speech [10th May] will set out the Government’s policy, regulatory and legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session; so we can expect a raft of proposals under the provisions of the new Act and of the Medicines and Medical Devices Act passed in the previous session.
Add to that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new review of all government arms’ length bodies [QUANGOs] and there will be a huge amount of policy development with which the sector needs to engage.
This article first appeared in MedTech Innovation News.
The Whitehouse team are expert political consultants providing public relations and public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of healthcare and social care clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union and beyond. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More on MedTech can be found here.