Patients across the UK are set to benefit from access to safe, effective and innovative equipment and medical devices as part of the first ever medical technology (medtech) strategy published today.
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 (NICE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) 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.
The full document can be read here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/medical-technology-strategy.
The British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA) welcomes this as another step forward to achieving the wider use of essential diagnostic tests and enabling technology which can really support better healthcare for patients and save resource for the NHS.
BIVDA’s Chief Executive, Doris-Ann Williams MBE said: “BIVDA saw the creation of the MedTech Directorate as a valuable and pragmatic step for our industry, in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) are a crucial part of the much wider medtech sector.
"We welcome the Medical Technology Strategy which is comprehensive and covers all the aspects that our industry faces in delivering world-class diagnostic testing to the NHS, including market access and regulation. We are committed to working closely with the MedTech Directorate to support the delivery of this Strategy.”