Fit for purpose? New report assesses the state of innovation adoption in the NHS

Medical Technology Group report welcomes greater focus on innovation uptake, but warns improvements are needed

The current system for encouraging innovation in the NHS is heathier than it has ever been, according to the Medical Technology Group, which has evaluated the effectiveness of the organisations involved in promoting the uptake of innovation in the health service.

Creating a culture of innovation needs to come from the very top of Government and the buck stops with the Secretary of State himself

Its report, entitled Our NHS: A spotlight on the Innovation Landscape, however, maintains that the NHS is still far from creating a much-needed culture of innovation and ensuring widespread and early patient access to technology.

The creation of the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) is providing leadership and guidance for the development of innovation, the report states.

And it praises the group for creating work programmes that NHS organisations can engage with and support, and for its role in ensuring its work does not get lost in other departmental activity.

A new report from Medical Technology Group reveals the steps needed to ensure the widespread uptake of innovation across the NHS

The AAC is a unique partnership including patient groups, government bodies, industry, and NHS bodies, which are working together to streamline the adoption of new innovations in healthcare.

It brings decision-makers from across the health service together with innovators from industry to accelerate impactful and cost-effective products in a way that hasn’t happened before.

The AAC supports all types of innovations including medicines, diagnostics, devices, digital products, pathway changes, and new workforce models.

Mandatory funding for all NICE guidance would provide reassurance to industry and certainty to patients. It would put the postcode lottery beast to rest once and for all

Overall, the AAC appears to be ‘gaining the prominence and adequate leadership to ensure that it makes a significant impact on the innovation landscape’, says the Medical Technology Group report.

Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) are also singled out for praise in the document.

The Government has signalled their importance and its commitment to these organisations by expanding their remit.

And their role as ‘catalysts and connectors’ has led to the introduction of over 330 technologies that have benefited over 20 million patients.

The report recommends that the AAC is given greater support, more prominence in the NHS architecture, as well as a more-formal role in all aspects of innovation.

While it has focused on supporting the limited uptake of a small number of technologies, and delivered impressive results in certain fields; the process is ‘unlikely to solve the fundamental issues that slow down the rapid uptake of technology across the wider healthcare system’, warns the report.

It should also strive to develop a culture of innovation and ensure the mechanics of the NHS support this.

The MTG report also recommends that:

  • An Early Access to Medical Technology scheme is created, providing funding and support for NHS organisations to ensure patients benefit from the right medical technology for their condition
  • The Innovative Technology Tariff/Payment should be reformed so that it enables system-wide adoption of proven technology
  • Devices, like drugs, with a positive Health Technology Appraisal from NICE and are proven to be cost effective, should receive mandatory funding
  • NHS procurement mechanisms need to prioritise value over upfront cost
  • Health Technology Assessments (HTAs) should look at a wider range of benefits, such as the impact on social care and people’s ability to return to work
  • The ‘less is better’ mind-set, whereby initiatives aim to reduce demand by removing treatments, needs to change. Instead the focus should be on getting people through the system and back to full health

Barbara Harpham, chairman of the MTG, said: “Creating a culture of innovation needs to come from the very top of Government and the buck stops with the Secretary of State himself.

While it’s encouraging to see that some of these steps are finally starting to lead to more adoption; it’s time to ensure that the value of technology is recognised and that patient access to proven medical technology is properly funded across the country

“His commitment to technology is welcome, but he now needs to go beyond the exciting initiatives and embed a culture that really drives the adoption of new technology in the UK health system.

“The number of reviews, reports, and initiatives to stimulate the uptake of innovation in the NHS over the past 13 years has now topped 20.

“And, while it’s encouraging to see that some of these steps are finally starting to lead to more adoption; it’s time to ensure that the value of technology is recognised and that patient access to proven medical technology is properly funded across the country.

“Mandatory funding for all NICE guidance would provide reassurance to industry and certainty to patients. It would put the postcode lottery beast to rest once and for all.”

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