Funding and focus on medtech helps patients reach full life potential
Improving and extending access to life-changing medical technology is a massive ambition, and one the MTG keeps permanently in mind. The recent publication of Sir Hugh Taylor’s Accelerated Access Review (AAR), following swiftly on from Lord Carter’s 2015 review into efficiency and productivity in NHS hospitals, reminds us that it is also always current.
Carter noted that huge levels of waste abound in the NHS, and claimed equally huge savings could be made through product and process standardisation. His diagnosis was neither new nor insightful. The patient is still bleeding quicker than we can plug the holes. Carter didn’t move the debate on, nor did he offer any solutions that would heal its chronic fiscal condition.
The Taylor Review launched only 15 months later did not offer ways to cut spending, but set out a stall that makes recommendations to speed up access to innovative healthcare and technologies for patients, and so improve medical outcomes, ultimately resulting in institutional efficiency.
AAR didn’t offer a diagnosis. It went straight to the cure. However, it failed to recognise that to be effective a cure has to be workable. This is the challenge of AAR, and it is where the MTG wants to help.
We are using Medical Technology Week to launch a new campaign. We agree with AAR that if NHS England invests in technologies now, then the savings will be recouped further down the line as there will no longer be the need for supplementary treatments for patients as they no longer have chronic or life-limiting conditions. The NHS should take its eye off the ball and, instead, look towards the goal line at the far end. So, in the first instance, we are seeking assurances that appropriate funding will be made available to deliver AAR’s recommendations as a matter of urgency so that lives are changed for the better.
Secondly, the MTG will petition NHS England to support the development of its Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) as they work to integrate all elements of healthcare from research to delivery into a single, holistic whole, from beginning to end. AHSNs must be encouraged to join up the NHS to be more than its current constituent parts of hospital trusts operating autonomously, by embedding a new culture of partnership and collaboration, creating new standards and finding innovative solutions to health care problems locally, and then getting these solutions spread at pace and scale across the wider NHS. In effect, reducing (or removing) duplication and improving treatment options, and saving money on both fronts.
Finally, the MTG will lobby NICE to increase the prominence and role of medical technology solutions in its clinical guidance, empowering doctors to prescribe them. NHS practitioners are so used to being told ‘No’, that culturally they are not able to presume a ‘Yes’. Until this culture shift is rooted in the NHS’s DNA, NICE must be seen to be taking the lead.
Access to medical technology in the UK is not as good as it should be, and with the NHS itself forecasting that 30 million people in the UK will have long-term conditions by 2050, this situation needs to be addressed as a priority. The MTG is here to help.