Chancellor's Spring Statement provides support for companies looking to break into the health sector, but technology experts claim more needs to be done to embed innovation
In his first Budget, Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced plans to provide simple and rapid approval for healthcare products in the UK
Despite the Chancellor announcing support for medical technology companies in the Spring Budget last week, more needs to be done to ensure innovation is more widely adopted across the NHS, health leaders have said.
In his first budget, Jeremy Hunt unveiled plans to provide additional support for companies looking to break into the health sector.
He said the Medicines Healthcare and Regulation Authority (MHRA) will explore partnering with other agencies in the US, Europe, and Japan and provide simple and rapid approval in the UK for products approved by these agencies.
In addition, digital health innovations for mental health, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular conditions will receive £310m of funding over five years.
This will be used to digitise the NHS Health Check to identify and prevent more cases of cardiovascular disease.
For mental health, they will modernise and digitise psychiatric services in England, providing wellness and clinical-grade apps free at the point of use, pilot cutting-edge digital therapies, and digitise the NHS Talking Therapies programme.
But there are fears the support does not go far enough to address current challenges.
Too often care providers lack visibility, causing unnecessary delays, so both institutions must shift their focus to improving long-term health outcomes, letting this dictate the support older adults receive
Speaking to BBH, Max Parmentier, a social care expert and co-founder and chief executive of health tech company, Birdie, said: “Hospitals must integrate more closely with social care organisations to leverage local care capacity.
“Too often care providers lack visibility, causing unnecessary delays, so both institutions must shift their focus to improving long-term health outcomes, letting this dictate the support older adults receive.”
He added: “While prevention initiatives have been trialled, they have failed to impact NHS capacity due to a lack of incentives. As such, the NHS must spearhead pilots and research at the Transformation Directorate.
“Health and social care data is still too siloed to be effectively used by Integrated Care Systems and other bodies.
“Standardisation of data across health and social care must, therefore, become a priority to ensure effective communication between the two sectors.”
Afshin Attari, director of public sector at Exponential-e, said that driving forward technology-enabled efficiency in healthcare is essential to manage waiting lists, staff shortages, and to improve working conditions.
He added: “New reforms on the approval and implementation processes for medical technology, as announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement, are hugely welcome.
We hope the initiatives announced in the Budget will improve collaboration between healthcare and technology companies to expedite the delivery of new technology to meet the more-pressing needs in healthcare today
“Investment into new developments is a key first step, as demonstrated by the Science and Technology framework announced last week, but we can only get so far when implementation of new innovations is blocked.
“We hope the initiatives announced in the Budget will improve collaboration between healthcare and technology companies to expedite the delivery of new technology to meet the more-pressing needs in healthcare today.”
He cited the National Pathology Imaging Co-Operative (NPIC) as an example of the innovation and patient care improvements the country can expect as a result of the reform.
In 2019 it received funding through the Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine strand of the Government’s Industry Strategy Challenge Fund.
This innovation alone is now helping digitise up to 2.3 million scans a year, making it easier for clinicians to optimise time to diagnosis, enable preventative care, and more effectively collaborate with other healthcare professionals and labs.
And Chris Hornung, managing director of public service at TotalMobile called for more funding to support the health service’s digital journey.
He said: “Investment in the public sector’s digital transformation journey was missing.
The budget presented an opportune moment to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to funding long-term workforce growth
“It may take more capital in the short term, but in the long term will lead to shorter wait times, easier scheduling, and greater retention of staff.”
Hunt’s announcement also abolished pension pot limits to stop doctors leaving the NHS, a move welcomed by Jonathan Barron, spokesman for the NHS Confederation.
He said: “In positive news, the Chancellor removed the pension lifetime allowance, while the yearly allowance increased from £40,000-£60,000 in a bid to discourage early retirement.
“The adjusted income limit will rise to £260,000 per year.
“We have long called for this change, and it should allow for more senior healthcare professionals to stay in their jobs longer.”
And he welcomed the increase in childcare allowance for parents of one and two year olds, many of whom work for the NHS.
But he said there was ‘unfinished business’ on two key workforce issues – the lack of a resolution on the ongoing pay disputes; and delays in the publication of the proposed new Workforce Plan.
“We are disappointed that it has been delayed once more as the budget presented an opportune moment to demonstrate the Government’s commitment to funding long-term workforce growth,” he added.