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A 10-year vision for the NHS? Here’s what we think…

This week the NHS consultation on its ten-year plan came to a close. It asked some big questions, including what core values should underpin the plan and how innovation can be encouraged in a way that reflects patients’ needs.

Naturally, the Medical Technology Group responded, setting out its thoughts on how the use of medical technology, which we know can have a transformative effect on the health service, patient outcomes, and the wider economy, can be encouraged and embedded into the culture of the NHS.

Currently, adoption of technology in the health service is severely restricted by a number of practical issues, including perverse incentives which fail to benefit a budget holder if the impact of the investment is felt in another part of the system. Alongside these ‘siloed budgets’, uptake is hampered by economic assessments which fail to recognise the long-term benefits of technology and procurement systems that look no further than the upfront costs.

So how does the NHS address these challenges? Here are our recommendations:

  1. Every NHS organisation at a local level should be required to have a Medical Device Officer, with responsibility for ensuring it gets the best use from medical technology.
  2. A process for tracking the use of technology across the NHS is needed, with organisations challenged in a comply-or-explain type system.
  3. More education and awareness for clinical professionals is needed as part of their Continuous Professional Development, with training programmes developed by Health Education England to ensure all clinicians are constantly up to date on the latest medical technology.
  4. The adoption of clinically proven and cost-effective medical technology should be researched, monitored and evaluated by NHS England.
  5. NHS organisations should become more closely integrated and joint working encouraged to break down budget silos and deliver the full benefits of medical technology, even when they are accrued in a different part of the system.
  6. Finally, NHS leaders must start to look more closely at the wider societal benefits of medical technology when making investment decisions, as outlined in our Keeping Britain Working

These recommendations should be underpinned by greater patient involvement so their voice is integral to the development of new technology and treatments. Above all patients need to see a clear pathway to uptake across the NHS, so they can clearly see how it will benefit others.

Meanwhile a formal platform for patient communication is needed so that their input extends beyond one-off consultations and issues and they are offered continuous input into long term planning and changes within the NHS.

Addressing these issues is key to incentivising investment in medical technology and realising the enormous potential value it has been shown to offer. However, when developing the ten-year plan, NHS leaders need to be prepared to take some bold steps.

September 2018

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