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European Health-Tech Innovation Week 2022 – how can we ensure MedTech reaches the patient?

As European Health Tech Awareness Week showcases the advances in medical technology across Europe, making sure medical technology reaches more patients in the NHS is a priority more than ever in 2022. 

Greater diagnostic capacity, increased recovery times, millions in savings. For healthcare policy makers across Europe, the untapped potential of medical technology is vast. Not only has it become a policy solution for the devastating impact of the pandemic on the ability to treat patients, but increasingly a way in which future models of healthcare are to be built and organised. 

The UK Government has recognised this. Medical technology was an integral part of the £8 billion elective recovery plan, with £700 million specifically set aside for the development of backlog busting medtech. Moreover, March saw a £260 million injection into healthcare research and life sciences manufacturing in March, while the MedTech Funding Mandate kicked off its second year in April. 

In short, funding for medtech and innovation in the health service exists. But beyond the headline sums, how can we ensure that medtech – from hip surgery robotics to minimally invasive heart valve replacement – is adopted to fully benefit all patients across the country? 

As the NHS undergoes seismic change through the Health and Care Bill, this is a question that lingers. Our Ration Watch programme has shown the huge variation in treatment that persists across our health service. At present there isn’t much to suggest this won’t continue under the new Integrated Care System (ICS) model. With the NHS split into 42 regions, each with their own capped budget, Commissioners will likely once more come under pressure to make the sort of rationing decisions that have already denied patients access to the type of innovations in medical technology that will be celebrated this week. 

This year of transition will be a test of the administration set up to ensure that medical technology reaches patients. In our report last year, we could not see a single body responsible for ensuring the uptake and spread of technology at pace and scale across the health service. Bodies like the Accelerated Access Collaboration and NHS Improvement may have to work harder than before as localised commissioning is set to gain even more power. 

Despite this, we remain optimistic. Much of what the Health and Care Bill envisages for the health service can only really be enabled by the uptake of medical technology: the use of AI and data to make informed decision about population health, the increasing focus of treating patients at home, a proactive rather than reactive approach to healthcare through the remote monitoring of chronic illness. 

With more money being pumped into the NHS, and a more collaborative approach to healthcare being envisaged under the new ICS system, local Commissioners can’t keep falling back on the same old excuses when it comes to the uptake of medtech. In 2022, we want to see local ICS Commissioners take on the initiative, foresight and drive to ensure the best medical technology makes it to every patient across the country. 

May 2022 

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