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NHS funding boost can transform patients’ lives

The extra £3 billion for health and social care announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the latest Spending Review fell significantly short of the further £10 billion that the BMA and the Health Foundation predicted would be needed to help the NHS as it continues to face the most difficult period in its history.

The bulk of this money is needed to deal with the acute demands from Covid patients. However, with the number of people being forced to wait at least a year for elective care rocketing from 1,500 in February to almost 140,000 in September, the next priority is tackling the immense backlog caused by the pandemic.

This will require a significant investment and reports suggest that a third of the Chancellor’s additional budget will be earmarked for reducing the number of people waiting for non-urgent surgery.

The NHS has choice though. It could revert to old ways of doing things, using short term measures to plug the gap, or it could make this additional funding go further, by using established medical technologies to deliver the kind of efficiencies it needs to meet demand in a more fiscally-strapped future. Most importantly, as our research has shown, using this funding wisely will bring enormous benefits to patients and wider society.

Medtech has already proven its worth during the pandemic and can play a major role in its recovery. Minimally invasive technologies such as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), introduced earlier in the year show just how much difference medical technology can make. By delivering doses of radiation concentrated on a cancer tumour, patients are treated quickly and spend less time on the ward recovering. Put simply, that’s good for patients, good for the NHS, and good for society.

Laparoscopic surgery is another example. Instead of open procedures, it is less painful for patients, reduces the risk of haemorrhaging, and shortens recovery times. What’s more, the cost of laparoscopies immediately outweighs the burden of keeping patients in hospital for longer, and more people can be treated in a shorter amount of time.

As 76-year-old patient Lewis Benn testifies, other established treatments, such as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), result in shorter hospital stays, reduced risk of infection and a quick patient recovery. In this case, an ICU bed is not required, freeing up space for other valve surgeries.

Hundreds of other established and new technologies are waiting in the wings to be deployed, making diagnosis and treatment quicker and more efficient.

The new willingness for the NHS to turn to proven medtech and trial new technology seen over the past nine months are a cause for optimism. At last, a culture of innovation is emerging, and the value of medical technologies is being recognised.

Now is the chance to seize the opportunity and create a new, more efficient NHS that delivers the very best for patients.

December 2020

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