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Our take on the NHS Long Term Plan

Part 1: Patient access to technology should be at the heart of new service models

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, outlines how the service will get best value for every ‘NHS pound’ spent. Its seven chapters look at specific aspects of policy and delivery, from developing new service models to workforce planning and IT, and key themes include the integration of structures, efficiency and prevention.

The MTG has analysed the Long Term Plan to identify ways in which medical technology can enhance these elements, and has considered how the Plan will impact on the services and treatments available to patients.

A key chapter examines ‘A new service model for the 21st century’. It sets out how the NHS will be restructured and how new service delivery models will be put in place to ensure we have a 21st century health service, including the need for prevention. It covers themes ranging from digital technology providing ways to access advice and care, to advances in precision medicine.

The chapter also refers to the greater use of home-based monitoring equipment, which it says will increasingly enable the NHS to predict and prevent events that would otherwise have led to a hospital admission.

Patient-centred care has been an NHS priority for many years. In our view decisions about technologies will be central to achieving this. For a patient living with a long-term condition, the choice of how you monitor and manage your life are likely to be underpinned by a decision about the technology you use. For many patients, access to a medical device can provide an alternative treatment option that can remove the need for ongoing treatment. It is therefore essential that patients should be made aware of all the options available to them.

The Plan’s focus on wearable technology is also welcome. There are a wide range of monitoring and home-based patient alert systems, from insulin pumps and blood glucose meters to heart monitors and pulse oximeters, that could be used to help people monitor their condition and provide an early alert to care providers. Many systems have the potential to connect medical devices such as implantable cardiac defibrillators, however the right infrastructure behind them to support patients when they require help is vital.

Overall, the recommendations in the Long Term Plan represent a major opportunity to create a new model of healthcare that uses technology to deliver a more efficient service focusing on prevention, the management of long term conditions, and improved patient outcomes. As our Keeping Britain Working report found (it concluded that £476 million in savings per year could be generated in reduced long-term health costs and benefit payments from the use of eight technologies alone), this approach not only benefits patients and the NHS, but also has potential advantages for the wider society and economy.

This post is a summary of an in-depth analysis developed for Medical Technology Group members.

October 2019

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