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.