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“Don’t forget the patient voice”:
The MTG’s response to The Times Health Commission

The Times’s Health Commission report has highlighted the use of medical technology and innovation as a key means to transform the NHS. Drawing on best practices found in healthcare systems such as Denmark and Singapore as well as the UK itself, it has described the potential as ‘transformative’, capable of making ‘much more difference than other structural reorganisations’.

In laying out this vision it has not exactly minced its words: ‘without better use of technology the NHS as we know it will not be able function’, it said. The publication of the Commission’s report was also followed by a call by Sir Patrick Vallance for the NHS to ‘take more risks to innovate’.

For the Medical Technology Group this is welcome news. We’ve long advocated for a policy approach to medtech and innovation that sees it as the solution to many of the health services problems. 

Our 2020 manifesto Medtech the Solution focused on an array of different technologies and services that helped the NHS be more ‘proactive’, than ‘reactive’ in how it treats patients. We’ve since focused on calling for commissioning and funding practices that help bring the latest innovation and medical technology to the NHS in a timely and equitable manner.

Whilst the drive to improve the uptake of innovation and medical technology across the NHS is to be welcomed, it is also important that it is done in a way that places the patient at the heart of this vision. Safe, efficient and effective should be the priority when implementing any new technology.

Over the last two years we’ve undertaken extensive research into understanding how meaningful patient involvement can help assist in better understanding how to implement effective medical technology and innovation across the NHS.

Our latest report found cause for concern when it came to these efforts. We found significant variation in best practice when it came to meaningfully representing the patient voice. With regards to surgical hubs for example, which featured heavily as a means to effectively work through the backlog in The Times report, just two Integrated Care Systems had properly consulted their patient populations about their procedures and equipment. 

Alongside a greater involvement of patients in this transformation, a longstanding issue is the variation in proven innovation across the NHS. Our most recent Rationwatch report, which focused on those trusts most effective in working through their backlog, found that relatively simple data technology in places such as Wakefield were instrumental in helping staff treat up to three times as many patients. 

The Times Health Commission is part of a broader and encouraging sea-change in the way we seek to use innovation and technology to tackle some of the NHS’s long standing problems. Sufficient funding, meaningful patient representation, and a commitment to ending regional variation in access to such technology are all key to achieving this vision. 

February 2024

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