Patients across the UK are set to benefit from access to safe, effective and innovative equipment and medical devices as part of the Government's new medical technology (MedTech) strategy.
The blueprint for boosting NHS medtech will focus on accelerating access to innovative technologies, such as the latest generation of home dialysis machines that enable patients to manage their own health at home and in their day to day lives.
It also sets out steps which need to be taken to ensure patients can access safe, effective and innovative technology through the NHS, which can help diagnose, treat and deliver care more quickly, freeing up clinician time. The NHS spends £10 billion a year on medtech including syringes, wheelchairs, cardiac pacemakers and medical imaging equipment such as x-ray machines.
Building on learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid development of medical technologies during that time such as lateral flow tests and ventilators, this strategy will ensure the right product is available at the right price and in the right place. As a result, patients will continue to have access to high-quality care, alongside improved patient safety and health outcomes.
The strategy aims to deliver value for money, using the latest data on the effectiveness of new technology to ensure prices are reasonable for the health system. It will also help build resilient supply chains and ensure the UK is prepared for future pandemics, just as demand for technology like syringes and ventilators rapidly increase during the pandemic.
Using MedTech effectively will be critical in reducing waiting lists for treatment caused by the pandemic as it has the potential to speed up diagnosis and deliver new and improved ways to treat and support patients. For example, COVID-19 demonstrated the importance of fast and accurate diagnostic testing and genome sequencing to process and share results and home lateral flow testing showed the potential for increased use of diagnostics outside of formal clinical settings, to support earlier diagnosis and free up staff time.
Minister of State for Health Will Quince said: "The UK’s innovative spirit delivered revolutionary technology during the pandemic – from COVID tests and ventilators – and we want to harness this in promoting cutting-edge medical advancements to improve patient care.
“The NHS spends around £10 billion a year on medical technology and I’m looking forward to working with industry to use this as we focus on reducing hospital stays, enhancing diagnosis, preventing illness and freeing up staff time. This new MedTech strategy will help build a sustainable NHS with patients at the centre so people can continue to access the right care at the right time."
The key aims of the strategy are to:
- Boost the supply of the best equipment to deliver greater resilience to health care challenges, such as pandemics, and enhance NHS performance through modernised technology which will enable faster diagnosis, treatment and ultimately discharge to free up hospital beds.
- Encourage ambitious, innovative research to secure the UK’s position as a global science superpower and attract vital investment for the UK economy and create jobs across the country. In 2021, there were already around 60 different research programmes supporting innovative technologies, representing over £1 billion of funding.
- Increase understanding and awareness of medtech by clinicians which will lead to more informed purchasing on new products and deliver better value for taxpayer money and better services for patients.
- Build on the Life Sciences Vision to improve collaboration between the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as an innovation partner to ensure patients can access the right products safely.
The implementation plan to deliver on this strategy will be published later this year and will include a review of the £1 billion spent on appliances in primary care, new comparison tools to enable better decision making when purchasing which achieve the best results for patients, and collaboration with industry to ensure availability of key products to keep patients safe.
Dr. Timothy Ferris, national director for transformation at NHS England said: "Medical technology has an enormous role to play in benefitting patients now and in the future. The importance of medtech was made clear during the COVID-19 pandemic and as the NHS moves through its recovery, it will play a key role in addressing the challenges we face.
Dr. Sam Roberts of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence added: "It is essential that clinicians and patients can access the most impactful and cost-effective medical technologies, while MedTech companies need to be confident that they are developing products which meet the needs of patients and the NHS. This strategy sets out a clear vision for the future. NICE is excited to be part of the delivery of this vision, working with our partners to further develop world leading processes to provide a sustainable pathway for medical technologies, from innovation to implementation.”
Peter Ellingworth of the Association of British HealthTech Industries (ABHI) also welcomed the publication of the DHSC MedTech Strategy: "HealthTech plays a valuable role in enabling improved outcomes through changing patient pathways as well as productivity and efficiency gains. It is important that this strategy supports the ambition of the Life Sciences Vision to create an outstanding business environment for HealthTech companies. We look forward to working closely with the Directorate in the implementation the strategy," Ellingworth commented.