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.