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Health Tech Alliance hear about forthcoming Science and Innovation Audit at Med-Tech Innovation Expo 2017

The Health Tech Alliance attended the first day of the Med-Tech Innovation Expo 2017 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry this week. Supported by MedilinkUK and Med-Tech Innovation, amongst others, the Expo heard from several industry experts.

Professor John Fisher of the University of Leeds shared the findings of his Science and Innovation Audit. Commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as part of the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, the Audit is expected to published in July and sets out the barriers to the growth of the health tech sector and solutions to overcoming these.

As the Green Paper states “the UK has too often pioneered discovery but not realised the commercial benefits” and the Science and Innovation Audits form part of the Government’s broader desire to build on the UK’s world-leading science and innovation base.

The Audit undertaken by Professor Fisher will set out the barriers to the sector’s growth including:

  • the complex and fragmented innovation/ product development pipeline;
  • long lead times on product development and market entry; and
  • poor access to NHS alongside a limited ability to evaluate clinical efficacy/ effectiveness

It is also expected to set out several recommendations including:

  • greater strategic leadership nationally and regionally;
  • investment in national centres of research excellence;
  • the development of a national clinical evaluation centre for med-tech devices

The Alliance looks forward to the publication of this vital piece of work which, amongst other things, will highlight the £18 billion annual contribution of the sector in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy as well as a sector’s projected growth of 64% by 2022.

What does the election mean for health tech?

The Prime Minister’s decision to call a General Election sent shockwaves through Westminster, having repeatedly vowed not to have a snap election at a time when the country needed stability post-referendum.

With the General Election on 8th June, political parties now have approximately seven weeks to outline their offering to the electorate and prove that they can govern in the national interest, as well as somehow balancing the desires of Leave and Remain voters alike.

But what about the impact of the General Election on the health tech sector?

Whilst health tech is unlikely to be or become a key issue during the General Election campaign, the NHS certainly will. You can expect Labour to campaign strongly on providing further funding to the health service (and the party historically polls well on the NHS) – however more money may not necessarily lead to a rise in the adoption of innovative health technologies that could have a game-changing impact on patient outcomes. As a recent Committee report found, the NHS could do much more to take up innovation and technology and overall, there is a lack of clarity as to who should be encouraging its uptake. As the Health Service Journal rightly point out, the Five Year Forward View timetable may now need to be readjusted as it broadly lines up with the previous 2015-2020 election cycle, which has now been broken.

A logjam in policymaking? The industry still awaits a response to the Government-commissioned Accelerated Access Review (AAR). As we approach ‘purdah’, the time period immediately before elections or referenda when restrictions on the activity of civil servants are put in place, the likelihood of a response to the AAR being published before the election diminishes. A formal response to the AAR will help deliver clarity to the industry and set in motion vital changes to the way medical technologies are adopted.

New Ministers and political stakeholders? An election means the possibility of a new governing party (an unlikely scenario based on current polls) but also the chance of new Ministers and political stakeholders. Lord O’Shaughnessy, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health and Minister responsible for the uptake of medical technologies and new drugs, could be reshuffled post-election. Additionally, you can expect to see changes to memberships of the Health Committee and Science and Tech Committee.

Lords Committee: Uptake of HealthTech must be a priority for the NHS

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS has released a report entitled ‘The Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care’. Overall the report criticises the ‘short-sightedness’ of successive governments for not planning effectively for the health service. In addition, the report highlights that ‘funding for health and adult social care over the past 25 years has been too volatile and poorly co-ordinated’.

There is recognition that for the NHS to continue to function as it does there will need to be changes. To combat this the report recommends that a new independent Office for Health and Care Sustainability be created, which will look ahead at the health and care needs of the public for the next 15-20 years and report back to Parliament.

Specific focus is paid to innovation, technology and productivity. There is heavy criticism of the ‘NHS’s relative failure to secure the take-up of innovation and new technology at scale’, going further to say that the ‘NHS has been slow to adopt and implement new technology’. Reasons for this are identified as being concerns about cost and the complicated procedures that are in place in order to use new technologies.

There is a clear acknowledgement by the Committee of the power of new technologies and how they can deliver a change in the type of care provided by the NHS. However, the report highlights concerns about the lack of encouragement in the uptake of innovation and technology, and there being a lack of clarity as to who should be encouraging this.

In terms of a way forward, it is clear that the service delivery model for the NHS needs to change. There is also recognition that if the ‘Five Year Forward View’ seems to be the only forward planning that has been done in regard to the health service, which is criticised by the Committee, but they feel that if its findings are fully implemented it will improve the NHS. In terms of technology and innovation the Committee urge that the Government make it clear that the adoption of innovation and technology, post-appraisal, should be a priority across the NHS. They go as far as suggesting that the Government make clear to the bodies and areas within the NHS deemed to be ‘failing’ in this respect that there will be “funding and service delivery consequences for those who repeatedly fail to engage” – including possibly relocating services to places that are proven to be more technologically innovative.


NHS England publishes next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View

Two and a half years since the publication of the NHS Five Year Forward View, NHS England has today issued a plan outlining what has been achieved together with changes that will take place in key areas including the use of technology.

Like its predecessor, the plan acknowledges the importance of the NHS harnessing the potential of technology and innovation, but is light on how the NHS will successfully adopt innovative health technologies to deliver better patient outcomes – something that may be clarified further when the Government responds to the Accelerated Access Review.

For 2017/18 and 2018/19, the NHS will take the following steps:

  • Begin the roll-out of new treatments funded by NHS England’s specialised commissioning, including mechanical thrombectomy treatment for stroke;
  • Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) and ‘test beds’ will take collective responsibility for driving national adoption of proven innovations, in line with the Accelerated Access Review;
  • Enhance the Health research Authority to create ‘a more fertile environment for clinical trials’ through the harmonisation of approval and recruitment processes;
  • Recruit an additional 1800-2000 GP practices to the Clinical Research Practice Data Link system (CPRD).

The plan also mentions the developments that have taken place over the past year, including:

  • the decision to commission nationally 33 ground-breaking new treatments; and
  • the new Innovation and Technology Tariff from April 2017.

Industry needs clarity on Accelerated Access Review so that health technologies can help transform patient care

The Health Tech Alliance Secretariat attended Reform’s Health Conference last Thursday (9th March) featuring a keynote speech from Health Secretary the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.

With the Budget the day before outlining further support and investment in game-changing technologies such as AI and robotics and setting a path to position the UK as a world-leader in the sector post-Brexit, Hunt’s speech, surprisingly, did not mention the role of health technologies in patient care, choosing instead to focus exclusively on the issue of patient safety.

Health technologies undoubtedly have a role to play in patient safety and patient care. Indeed, the Government-commissioned Accelerated Access Review, published in October 2016 and led by the Office for Life Sciences, outlined several recommendations to support the adoption of innovative health technologies.

If taken forward, the recommendations outlined by the Accelerated Access Review have the potential to change the market access landscape within which health technologies operate. These include the creation of an Accelerated Access Pathway for “strategically important, transformative products” to bring them to patients more quickly, a single set of clear national and local routes to get such technologies to patients and for national routes to market to be streamlined and clarified.

The Government, however, is yet to formally respond to the Review or set out the exact recommendations it will take forward.

This is despite a realisation from the recent Digital Strategy of the potential that sectors such as HealthTech hold for the future. In fact, the paper believes that emerging sectors such as HealthTech, where the UK already has a lead, should generate as much as £200 billion to the country’s economy by 2025.

Health technologies undoubtedly have an important role to play in the NHS – both now and in the future. As the country faces Brexit, the Government must formally respond to the Accelerated Access Review and set out a much clearer path for health technologies to reach the patients that need them and help transform patient care.

HealthTech Workshop, 6th October 2016

The HealthTech Alliance was borne out of a workshop convened on 6th October 2016. Chaired by Dame Barbara Hakin, former Deputy Chief Executive of NHS England, the workshop was attended by a range of representatives involved in health economics, reimbursement, market access, sales and marketing. The attendees examined the common roadblocks and challenges facing the industry and agreed to work together to better resolve these.

To read our summary of the workshop, please click here.