New NHS model needed for adoption of innovative medical devices

Medical Technology Group report finds barriers still exist for device manufacturers and calls for similar support as given to pharmaceuticals

The current system is hard to navigate for medical device manufacturers

The system for introducing new medical technologies into the NHS remains complex, crowded, and difficult to manage, according to a new report by the Medical Technology Group (MTG).

The paper also calls for innovative treatments with medical devices to be given the same support as new pharmaceutical medicines.

Current NHS mechanisms to support the uptake and use of innovative technology are severely limited in scope and are focused on ‘picking winners’ rather than the broad system-wide adoption of new technology, the report states.

The benefits of medical technology for patients have been clear during the COVID-19 pandemic – from the use of ventilators to remote monitoring systems that have alleviated the strain on the NHS

It points to the Accelerated Access Pathway, for instance, which supports fewer than 10 technologies each year; and the lack of a clear mechanism to support the widespread uptake of innovative products across the NHS.

And the absence of a broad, national commissioning policy means patients sometimes miss out on the benefits of established technology due to a regional variation in access.

The MTG report compares the uptake of medical technology to pharmaceuticals, which can be fast-tracked to patients through mechanisms such as the Early Access to Medicines Scheme and the Cancer Drugs Fund.

The majority of NICE Technology Assessments, which lead to mandatory funding, are medicines - it points outs - while treatments supported by a device follow the Interventional Procedure Guideline, which does not enjoy the same funding support.

Barbara Harpham, chairman of MTG, said, “The benefits of medical technology for patients have been clear during the COVID-19 pandemic – from the use of ventilators to remote monitoring systems that have alleviated the strain on the NHS.

“If we are going to take advantage of new technology to enable the health service to recover and become more efficient in the future, we need a simple, clear mechanism for adopting new treatments

“If we are going to take advantage of new technology to enable the health service to recover and become more efficient in the future, we need a simple, clear mechanism for adopting new treatments, similar to those in other European countries.

“To bring about real change, we must have a system that is clear and open to a broad range of technology and we must involve patients in the process.”

The report makes 11 recommendations for a new Medical Technology Access Accelerator, including:

  • A single front door – an ‘Innovation Office’ to triage new devices and support innovators who find the current system difficult to navigate by providing a pathway for technologies and a route to patients, connecting them with the relevant agencies and support
  • A single model – while there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, there is a need for a clear pathway for innovators so that they receive support from the most-appropriate organisation. The system should be clear about the level of data and evidence needed for a technology to be adopted
  • Guaranteed funding and commissioning – all technologies coming through the Access Accelerator should receive temporary commissioning during evidence development, then mandatory funding and permanent commissioning once a final decision is made. • A clear role for patients – Often patients are the last to be consulted on the technology available to them. They should be involved in the decisions around its adoption, and the evaluation of its true impact
  • Information for patients on technologies and available treatments should be easy to access in plain English

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