Members of the Alliance, including both SMEs and large companies, agreed that it was crucial to examine how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would affect regulatory arrangements to ensure the safe supply of medical technologies to patients, post-Brexit. The inquiry was also seen as an important step in ensuring Government prioritised the uptake of medical technologies across the UK’s healthcare system.
Members raised several recommendations as part of their submission including:
- Urging the Government to make its position on Brexit and the life sciences clearer and regularly consult with industry to ensure that companies of all sizes are informed in making necessary preparations for the future, especially in regards to the possibility and length of any transition period.
- Greater collaboration between the NHS, decision-making bodies and industry to ensure that vital medical technologies reach patients quicker.
- Pressing Government to outline ambitious steps to ensure the UK maintains its position as a global leader in producing medical technologies through the next iterations of the Sector Deal for Life Sciences.
Members voiced concerns for the future, especially in relation to potential changes in the regulatory environment, staffing and their ability to distribute products globally – all of which might adversely affect the availability of essential technologies to patients.
Despite these concerns, the members also considered the opportunities that may arise for the medtech sector following Brexit, particularly the prospect of a comprehensive free trade deal between the UK and US and the possibility of stripping away any EU-based red tape to encourage further research and innovation.
The views of industry members were echoed by the Chair of the Alliance Dame Barbara Hakin, former Deputy Chief Executive of NHS England who said:
“I welcome this important inquiry by the Health Committee. I do hope that the Government continues its commitment to ensuring the UK remains a world leader in medical technologies through the swift implementation of the plans outlined in its recent response to the Accelerated Access Review and in the recently published Life Sciences Sector Deal”
The medical technology industry in the UK is a thriving one; as well as improving patient outcomes, the Government’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy points out that exports of medical devices increased from £4.5bn in 2015 to £4.9bn in 2016. It is therefore more important than ever that the industry’s ability to get transformative devices into the healthcare system is valued and appropriately supported by the Government.
The ’Life Sciences ‘Sector Deal’ was announced this week – the first in a string of ‘sector deals’, to be rolled out as part of the Government’s wider Industrial Strategy. The deal is a series of commitments and investments from both Government and industry, which take forward elements of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy. This strategy, published in August 2017 and led by Sir John Bell, set out a number of recommendations to drive growth and productivity within the life sciences sector.
The Deal pledged a number of commitments in areas such as genomics, artificial intelligence and enhancing regional infrastructure. While there were no new investments towards the medtech sector from the Government, the sector deal did reaffirm the Government’s commitment to implementing the Accelerated Access Review(AAR) with £86m of government funding. Whilst it does not announce any new AAR-related measures it:
- States that the Accelerated Access Collaborative will ‘facilitate bespoke partnerships between the NHS and the life sciences industry’.
- Notes that “industry will play a key role” in the Collaborative.
- Notes that NHS England is strengthening its commercial capability to develop mutually beneficial commercial deals (via a new Strategic Commercial Unit).
- Commits funding to support innovators and the NHS locally as part of Government’s response, as well as a commitment to the creation of digital health catalyst to support SMEs partnering with the NHS.
Commenting, Chair of the Health Tech Alliance Dame Barbara Hakin, stated that:
“We welcome the publication of the Life Sciences Sector Deal which is an encouraging first step for the sector. As the Sector Deal highlights, the measures outlined this week are very much a first step. I look forward to seeing how future measures will help support the uptake and spread of innovative medical technologies, devices and diagnostics which are vital to alleviating the pressures that the NHS faces and improving patient outcomes.”
The deal also refers to the work of Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), stating that they will ensure innovators can access support and a new scheme will support SME businesses in developing an effective evidence base for their products.
There were several industry commitments, however, with Johnson & Johnson undertaking a major medical device collaboration within orthopaedic services and Smith & Nephew developing a new digital tool for wound care in community trusts.
Oversight of the deal will be led by an Implementation board, its membership comprising of a range of policy officials and senior industry representatives. Details of membership will be announced ahead of the first meeting, and the board will be supported by sub-groups to oversee each component of the deal.
Our full summary of the Sector Deal can be found here
Professor Sir John Bell appeared before the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee today, to discuss what he hoped to see out of the implementation of his Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and the ‘sector deal’ that is to be announced shortly.
When asked whether the NHS and Government departments had been able collaborate efficiently as to deliver the strategy, he stated that the NHS did have to ‘come up to speed’ with the industry. Professor Bell spoke of the need to ‘develop a sustainable innovation cycle that works its way through clinical development, manufacturing and then adoption’, adding that the current break in the cycle often comes with adoption and that the NHS would therefore have to find a way to adopt innovation more effectively.
Professor Bell was also asked by Lord Kakkar, whether the inclusion of five innovations as part of the Accelerated Access Pathway was sufficiently ambitious, Bell stated that he himself had chosen this number, and noted that it was important to ‘not be inundated’ at the start of the programme. He reassured the Committee that this would be a starting point that would be expanded on in the future.
He did, however, voice concerns about the possible lack of funding to allow adoption and diffusion of innovative technologies, stating that there was a worrying risk that innovation would enter the AAR process, and then fail to be diffused through the healthcare system because of limited funds.
Professor Bell’s comments come before the announcement of the life sciences sector deal, full details of which are expected tomorrow. The deal is expected to see a US-based life sciences investment fund invest up to $1bn to create a large biotech company in the UK and highlight investment commitments by several pharma companies, including GlaxoSmithKline. Professor Bell noted encouragingly, that this too would be the first wave in a series of investments in the life sciences sector.
Kings Fund Annual Conference: Jeremy Hunt tells Health Tech Alliance ‘uptake of medical technologies is too slow’
The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt’s comments about medical technologies came as he closed the Kings Fund Annual Conference yesterday. Although he pointed out that safety and quality standards had remained generally high despite the funding squeeze and ever-increasing activity within NHS hospitals, he said that there would be benefit in including medical technologies as part of the safety and quality agenda. Mr Hunt told delegates that he believed the digital and medical technological changes within healthcare could have a similar societal impact as the creation of the Internet, and expressed the need to harness such technologies.
When asked by the Health Tech Alliance about addressing the need to increase the uptake of such innovative technologies, the Health Secretary admitted that the uptake of medical devices within the NHS was ‘too slow’ and something that needed improving. He told the Alliance that the uptake was particularly slow because of the ongoing transition of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) into Accountable Care Systems (ACSs), but noted that as part of the Five Year Forward View, CCGs will soon have more influence in commissioning technologies that keep people out of hospital.
The Kings Fund Annual Conference spanned across two days, with a strong focus on preventative care and the importance of public health in alleviating pressures on the healthcare system. Speakers such as Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, spoke of the need to strive for health equity and focus on how Government policies may be contributing to health inequality across the country.
There was also a great deal of discussion in how to improve care quality and reduce unwanted variation within stretched budgets. Former Labour Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt told delegates how we can learn from overseas examples in delivering care by in utilising patient data, biometrics and telemedicine in improving efficiency. Many speakers, including Jeremy Marlow from NHS Improvement, spoke of the work of the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme in encouraging staff to question and revaluate basic functions and processes and contributing to widespread changes.
We at the Health Tech Alliance will be pushing for an increased proportion of medical technologies, devices and diagnostics to be taken up. As the Secretary of State rightly says, these technologies, can increase safety and boost the quality of care offered to patients. While his references to the benefits of medical technologies is an encouraging step in the right direction, we hope to see his comments reflected in future policymaking.
Alliance hears from NHS Improvement and Office for Life Sciences on implementation of the Accelerated Access Review
The Health Tech Alliance’s November meeting could not have been timelier, with the Government’s recent response to the Accelerated Access Review (AAR) giving our members plenty to discuss. Members heard from Miles Scott, Improvement Director at NHS Improvement and Caroline Fenwick from the Office of Life Sciences, both of whom oversee implementation of the AAR at their respective organisations.
Commenting on the event, Dame Barbara Hakin, Chair of the Alliance and former Deputy Chief Executive of NHS England, said “innovation is increasingly important to the quality of patient outcomes and I am therefore delighted to have chaired this event. I thank our speakers for providing some welcome insight into the promising future of innovative medical technologies within the NHS. The Alliance looks forward to working with NHS Improvement and the Office for Life Sciences to ensure that a greater proportion of these transformative technologies are taken up across the health service”.
Members were provided with a useful overview of priorities for implementation of the AAR, and were reassured to hear that the measures outlined in the Government’s response were very much the start of a longer-term plan to boost the uptake of innovation across the health service. There is a hope within both the healthcare system and within industry that lessons will be learnt on the functioning of the Accelerated Access Pathway so that the number of products that can be assisted through this route will increase over time.
There was a clear acknowledgement among both speakers and our members that innovation can hold the key to improving quality over the long-term through reducing costs, improving productivity and tackling unwarranted variations. It was therefore also encouraging to hear that NHS Improvement is increasingly considering long-term solutions to improve productivity, particularly through the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) programme and that across the system, more funding is being put towards supporting research into medical technologies.
Our speakers encouraged industry members to consider patient involvement and patients’ voices; a key part of the Accelerated Access Review, the Government’s response and indeed a key focus of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. They encouraged medical technologies, devices and diagnostic companies to look to the past and learn lessons from previous initiatives, but also look to the future and remember that there will always be new initiatives and rounds of funding to come that will be purposed with spreading the uptake of innovation within the healthcare system.
The Health Tech Alliance welcomes the Government’s long-awaited response to the Accelerated Access Review today and looks forward to working closely with the Accelerated Access Collaborative to drive through the adoption of vital medical technologies to transform patient outcomes.
Dame Barbara Hakin, the Chair of the Health Tech Alliance and former Deputy Chief Executive of NHS England said: “We welcome today’s response to the Accelerated Access Review and the announcement of an Accelerated Access Pathway as well as the creation of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. We now look forward to working with the Collaborative to drive through the uptake and adoption of vital medical technologies, devices and diagnostics which have the potential to transform patient benefits, meet the challenges of an ageing population and deliver cost-savings to the health service.
Dame Barbara added: “Medical technologies are a vital part of the future growth of the life sciences sector as the Government’s recent Life Sciences Industrial Strategy acknowledges. We now look forward to the Life Sciences Sector Deal setting out ambitious steps to ensure that the UK maintains its world-leading position for the innovation and adoption of technologies, devices and diagnostics.”
The Accelerated Access Review was chaired by Sir Hugh Taylor, and was published in October 2016, setting out a framework for transforming the way the health service interacts with innovation. The Review found that although new technologies and innovation were being produced at a high rate, there was a clear need to speed up access to innovative drugs, devices, diagnostics and digital products for NHS patients.
As part of its recommendations, the Review states that there should be clear and streamlined routes to market to ensure that products reach patients as well as a range of incentives to support the uptake of innovation.
Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt MP appeared before the Commons Health Committee yesterday to address a number of issues, ranging from mental health funding to dental services.
Members of the Health Committee referred to recent comments by national medical director of NHS England, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, who recently stressed the need to ‘be clear’ about when recommendations to implement new solutions in the form of new devices or technology “should override the financial considerations”. While Mr Hunt did not provide detail, when asked about whether a more streamlined approach could be applied to introducing new technology or medical devices nationally, the Secretary of State said it was something he was focused on.
The Secretary of State was also questioned on the issue of staff pay rises and his previous comments that linked any potential staff pay rise to improvements in productivity, rather than funding them through additional budgeting. He stressed that he had discussed this issue with the Chancellor, stating ‘the Chancellor will consider extra money if I’m able to secure productivity improvements’.
Meanwhile, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, made his views on pay for NHS staff clear by calling the link between NHS pay rises and increased productivity an ‘own goal of the first magnitude’ in a speech at a Managers in Partnership conference also on Tuesday. This echoes statements Stevens made to the Health Committee earlier in October in which he said that pay rises for the NHS should be properly funded rather than offset by other parts of what the health service is doing. Mr Stevens’ sentiments were supported by Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, who agreed that it would be counterproductive for the chancellor to try and fund a pay rise from the existing NHS budget.
CQC State of Care report – Challenge for healthtech innovators is to embed safety in new ways of working and collaborating
Tuesday saw a number of interesting health stories, including the release of the annual State of Care assessment from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The report found that an ageing population and an increased number of people with complex or chronic conditions are among the many factors placing health and social care services in England under immense pressure. In particular, bed occupancy is consistently above the recommended maximum of 85% and between January to March 2017, it was the highest ever recorded at an average of 91.4%.
Despite growing concerns about the strain that NHS staff are under, the report did acknowledge the transformative role that new technology has played in improving health care services and providing patients with a means of maintaining their independence. The report states that ‘technological innovation offers an opportunity to drive improvement in healthcare services and to offer more convenient access for patients to advice, treatments and medicines.’ The report stressed however, that ‘the challenge and opportunity for innovators is to embed safety in new ways of working and collaborating’. You can read the full report here.
Yesterday also saw Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tell the House of Commons that although the cap on pay rises for NHS staff has been’ scrapped’, this change could be linked to productivity. His answer came as a response to Warrington North MP Helen Jones, who asked whether a rise would be funded through further cuts to services, to which the Health Secretary replied: “That is something I can’t answer right now because the latitude the Chancellor has given me in negotiating future pay rises is partly linked to productivity improvements”. Mr Hunt did not say whether he expected future pay awards to be at or above inflation.
However, hours after Hunt’s statement in the Commons, Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England and NHS Improvement Chief Executive Jim Mackey both told the committee that staff pay rises would not be able to come from within the existing funding settlement and would require ‘additional funding’. In reference to the Autumn budget, Mr Stevens also noted that “Decisions taken on 22 November will determine the shape of the NHS next year and the year after.”
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP has laid out ambitious plans to deliver the largest increase in training “in the history of the NHS”. He made the pledge at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on Monday, announcing 5,000 new training places for nurses, to lift numbers of home-grown staff. His announcement comes after growing concerns surrounding NHS staff shortages and a 19% collapse in applications for nursing courses at Universities in the past year. Mr Hunt’s ‘historic’ pledge would create an unprecedented 25% increase in nurses training.
The Secretary of State for Health also announced plans for NHS staff to utilise new flexible working hours and the right to buy affordable homes developed on surplus NHS land. The Department of Health states that these decisions will “reduce the reliance on expensive agency nurses and overseas recruits”, as Britain prepares to leave the EU.
Theresa May’s speech on Wednesday was light on healthcare, although she did announce a review of the Mental Health Act and a consultation on introducing an optout system for organ donation but fringe events saw senior NHS decision makers and Conservative MPs discuss the incessant challenges of increasing demand and financial pressures. In particular, the Minister of State for Health Philip Dunne expressed the need for a more prevention-focused approach to patient care within the NHS. Dunne also highlighted the importance of the ‘Getting It Right First Time’ (GIRFT) programme in reducing unwarranted variations in the quality of care and sharing best practice across the health service. You can read highlights of our recent members’ meeting with Rachel Yates, Managing Director of the GIRFT programme here.