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Taking stock and looking forward to 2016…

The Christmas season is a time for taking stock of the year just gone, and looking forward to a new year ahead.

An unlucky minority will have had unexpected, serious, life-changing health scares in 2015 – some of whom will have benefited from medical technologies already in use and which offer early diagnosis and improved treatment options for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure (CHF) or diabetes. However, for far too many patients in the UK these medical technologies are not available, despite their availability to patients in other developed economies. This places a newly diagnosed patient in a health limbo of existing with a condition that dominates their daily lives rather than providing an opportunity to live to their fullest with, and despite, their condition.

And it is in this context that I would draw your attention once more to the OECD’s* Health at a Glance 2015, published in November, and their Health Statistics 2015 from July. Both reports present the most recent comparable data (from 2013) on the performance of health systems in OECD and some other partner countries.

It is not disputed by anyone that medical technologies save lives and save money. And so we can celebrate that in 2013 per capita health spending across the OECD grew by 1.0% in real terms, and a similar spurt is expected for 2014, in line with average GDP growth. And yet this figure masks some harsher local realities, especially in the UK where health spending and the utilisation of medical technologies, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams, is lagging behind other developed nations:

  • One third of OECD countries — mostly European — reported a real term cut in overall health spending in 2013
  • In addition, the UK’s average annual growth in per capita health spending, in real terms dropped over the period 2005-2013
  • UK health spending (excluding investment) as a share of GDP was 8.5% – almost half the level in the USA at 16.4%, and within a European context the following nations all spent over 10%: Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Denmark, Belgium and Austria)

And while our own report Admissions of Failure highlighted that in England unplanned hospital admissions account for more than a third of all hospital admissions and two thirds of all hospital bed days, the OECD standardised indicators add some granularity to this finding, including the fact that per 100,000 of the population, avoidable hospital admissions for COPD and asthma alone in Japan number 50, in the UK it is 250.

The Medical Technology Group has had a very successful 2015. But my ambition for 2016 is even greater success – driving technology uptake and making life better for NHS patients. We must continue to lobby government, Trusts and CCGs, constantly reminding them of the tangible benefits medical technologies offer. And we must keep applying pressure. So do enjoy the holiday season, and if you do make a New Year resolution let it be to join the MTG in these efforts.

*Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Sources: source 1 , source 2

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