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Health Tech Alliance and AHSNs explore how to better collaborate with one another

Health Tech Alliance members met with representatives of Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) to hear more about the work they do and to discuss ways in which the MedTech industry and AHSNs can better collaborate to increase the uptake and spread of innovation.

Holly McLaren, Commercial Director of UCL Partners, delivered a thorough introduction to the work of the AHSN network for our members, and drew attention to several ongoing initiatives that they are working on, including the National Innovation Accelerator, a highly competitive programme delivered in partnership with all 15 AHSNs and hosted by UCL Partners. We also learned from our speakers the role that AHSNs will play in the adoption and spread of those transformative products that go through the Accelerated Access Pathway.

Steve Feast, Managing Director of Eastern AHSN and Chair of the MedTech Innovation National Network told us that AHSNs must work harder to understand industry needs and help to make a stronger case for innovative solutions when educating clinicians and trusts about these products. Members were keen that AHSNs identify their priorities so that industry is aware of these. He also admitted that AHSNs have had a strong focus on helping small companies, and that they need to interact further with medium and large-sized businesses.

He did however, also have advice for industry in engaging withy AHSNs and clinicians. He suggested that to successfully market their products to clinicians, industry must focus less on the products themselves but more on the problems these products solve. If these products can meet a clear need, produce safer outcomes, or quicker training of clinicians, NHS staff are more likely to be engaged.

The event concluded with a workshop exercise where the Health Tech Alliance, Holly McLaren and Steve Feast discussed what industry and AHSNs could do better to encourage more constructive dialogue and to ensure the uptake of vital innovation.

Chairing the meeting, Dame Barbara Hakin said “I’d like to thank our speakers for providing clarity the role of AHSNs and giving our members insight into their role in implementing the Accelerated Access Review. The Alliance look forward to working closely with AHSNs to ensure there is better collaboration with the MedTech industry so that vital technologies reach patients faster.”








To find out more about the Health Tech Alliance or to learn more about this and our forthcoming events programme, please contact secretariat@healthtechalliance.uk

Health Committee calls for close regulatory alignment post-Brexit

Health Committee calls for close regulatory alignment post-Brexit

The Health and Social Care Select Committee has today published its report following the conclusion of its inquiry into the impact of Brexit on medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin and call for close regulatory alignment between the UK and the EU. Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston MP stated that failure to secure the closest possible regulatory alignment ”would signal a triumph of ideologies over the best interest of patients”.

The report highlights several concerns raised by Health Tech Alliance members and takes forward a number of the Alliance’s recommendations, including:

  • Calling for greater clarity on preparations for Brexit so that industry has sufficient time to prepare for changes around the future regulatory and operating environment and urging the Government to publish their contingency plans as soon as possible.
  • Calling for a commitment to implementing both the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy “at pace” and the Accelerated Access Review.
  • Urging the Government to ensure that the UK remains a member of EU R&D funding and research mechanisms such as Horizon 2020 post-Brexit.

The report also acknowledges industry concerns around the impact Brexit may have around continued access to high-quality researchers and staff as well as possible changes to the supply chain; both were mentioned in the Alliance’s written response to the inquiry and the Committee has expressed its support for free and frictionless trade with the EU.

The Committee have also made recommendations in other areas, including calling for continued access to Europe-wide clinical trials.

Chair of the Health Tech Alliance and former Deputy Chief Executive of NHS England, Dame Barbara Hakin, welcomed the Committee’s Report, stating: “We the Alliance are delighted to see the Committee share many of the opinions and concerns raised by our members as part of this inquiry. We hope the Government carefully consider the points raised in this report as Brexit negotiations progress, to ensure that innovative medical devices and technologies can continue to benefit patients.”

NHS Clinical Lead Optimistic About the Future of Innovation

Professor Tony Young, a consultant surgeon and National Clinical Lead for Innovation at NHS England appeared before the Lords Science and Technology Committee this week to discuss the barriers for adopting innovation in the NHS.

When questioned by Chairman Lord Patel on whether the NHS was poor at adopting innovation Professor Young was optimistic, pointing out that there were many examples of NHS adopting innovation successfully and a number of systems and structures in place to encourage this, including Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), test bed programmes and the National Innovation Accelerator. In particular, he reminded the Committee that AHSNs are still in their infancy and therefore required support and patience to thrive. He urged the Committee to remember that the NHS is the largest employer on the planet, and one that is struggling with the rise of chronic diseases and long-term condition and there are therefore several competing priorities in delivering good care.

When it came to comparing the NHS to the success of other international systems in implementing innovations, Professor Young noted that while the US does spend considerably more on the uptake of innovation, life expectancy was worse than that of the UK, and questioned the idea that spending vast amounts of money on innovation necessarily equated to a successful healthcare system.

The Committee asked Professor Young what he perceived to be the greatest barriers to the uptake and spread of innovative technologies, to which he suggested that the most important step in the spread of innovation was winning the hearts and minds of NHS staff. He disagreed with members of the Committee that uptake of certain innovations should be mandatory, instead suggesting that it would be more productive to empower a passionate workforce to embrace entrepreneurship and innovative thinking. He pointed to the work of the Clinical Entrepreneur Programme, which has given clinical staff the ability to be innovative within the system and provided them with ownership of delivering broader change. Professor Young suggested that ‘we need to create a mentality that prioritises innovation within the NHS’, stating that initiatives such as the Accelerated Access Review that focus on innovation, must be at the heart of the NHS’s key priorities.

Life sciences order of the day in Parliament

Lord O’Shaughnessy, the Minister responsible for the uptake of medical technologies, appeared before two parliamentary committees yesterday and acknowledged the issues that innovators continue to face around uptake.

Speaking before the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee, O’Shaughnessy, a former Policy Director at Number 10 under David Cameron’s premiership, noted that the UK was a hub for innovative ideas, but that uptake and diffusion remained challenging.

The Minister did, however, feel that the culture and prevailing thinking around innovation was changing. He was also optimistic that the recently Accelerated Access Pathway (AAP), to be introduced from April, would lead to greater partnership between industry and decision-making bodies. The Pathway will be a new route to market for transformative products. Up to five products a year will benefit from the Pathway which will comprise streamlined regulatory and market access decisions. The Government’s ambition for the AAP, as outlined in its response to the 2016 Accelerated Access Review, is to “bring forward by up to four years patient access to these selected, highly beneficial and affordable, innovations”. In and amongst this was an acknowledgement that there are currently too many routes to market and that Government was actively looking at how to streamline and rationalise these.

The Committee session also heard about the Government’s plans to convene a ‘Life Sciences Council’, jointly chaired by the Health and BEIS (Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) Secretaries and Pascal Soriot, the CEO of Astra Zeneca. Meanwhile, a Life Sciences Industrial Strategy Implementation Board, chaired by BEIS Minister Lord Henley and Sir John Bell – author of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy – will oversee implementation of Life Sciences Sector Deal measures.

Lord O’Shaughnessy later appeared before the Health Committee, to give evidence on the impact of Brexit on medicines and medical devices. Appearing alongside Jeremy Hunt and the Chief Executive of the MHRA, he admitted that the industry would have to form contingency plans because of Brexit, and when doing so prepare for all scenarios. He assured the Committee however, that Government is in dialogue with industry and would do what it can to mitigate any disruption.

On the subject of Brexit, both the Health Secretary and Lord O’Shaughnessy expressed optimism in the UK’s ability to continue producing innovative devices and medicines and remain an attractive place for clinical research, noting that the Life Sciences Sector Deal had demonstrated a clear commitment from industry to make major investments in the UK. They also told the Committee that Brexit would have no effect on the Government’s commitment to implementing the Accelerated Access Review, with the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) due to meet for the first-time next week.

Mr Hunt also answered questions on the recent merger of Health and Social care, and whether this would signify meaningful change to funding. The Health Secretary told the Committee that the change signified the importance of addressing problems in social and the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to the issue. Even if the they remain separate processes, he stated, acknowledging the link was significant. Although funds for social care will continue to flow from the Department of Housing and Local Government, which provides social care, the Health Secretary was confident that major positive reforms could still be achieved.

Health Tech Alliance Urges Government to Provide Clarity Over Brexit

The Health Tech Alliance has formally submitted a response to the Health Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry into the impact of Brexit on medicines, medical devices and substances of human origin.

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’ – What does it mean for MedTech?












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 John Bell: Government’s Accelerated Access Pathway is just the starting point

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 comments on Government’s response to the Accelerated Access Review

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.