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PM’s diabetes technology becomes widely available, but exposes NHS rationing issue

The wearable glucose monitor used by Prime Minister Theresa May will become available to tens of thousands more people with type 1 diabetes, NHS England announced this week.

The Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system was made available on the NHS in November 2017, but even though up to one in four type 1 patients were eligible for the device, only 3-5% were given access to the technology by their local Clinical Commissioning Group.

The Medical Technology warmly welcomes the decision by NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens to end what he described as a ‘postcode lottery’ by making the ‘life-changing device universally available. Making the announcement, Mr Stevens recognised the potential value of medical technology, saying that ‘innovations such as these also free up time and resources for the NHS as a whole’.

However, the development exposes a more widespread issue within the NHS where decisions about what treatment patients receive and under what circumstances is governed by regional NHS organisations which are not accountable to any national body.

The MTG is concerned about the resulting restriction on access to medical technology, which often limits patient outcomes, and prevents the wider cost and social benefits being felt. That’s why at this year’s Medical Technology Week in December we are launching RationWatch, a new campaign aimed at highlighting the issues around local commissioning. It will call on NHS leaders to do more to ensure patient access is governed by what you need, not where you live.

The launch follows the publication this week of our latest report – STPs and the use of technology – which exposes the lack of attention that NHS regional organisations are placing on innovative technology, despite it being a requirement by NHS England.

This increasing move towards regional governance within the NHS with little or no national accountability is at risk of leaving patients without access to the treatments they need, while missing an enormous opportunity to harness the substantial benefits that medical technology can deliver.

November 2018

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