Industry Reacts to Publication of UK Medtech Strategy

Written by Katherine Robbins

March 20, 2023

The Department of Health and Social Care has published the first ever medical technology strategy for the UK in a bid to accelerate access to innovative technologies.

It also sets out steps which need to be taken to ensure patients can access 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, this strategy aims to allow the right product is available at the right price and in the right place.

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, and to build resilient supply chains so the UK is prepared for future pandemics.

Using medtech effectively will be critical in reducing waiting lists for treatment given its potential to speed up diagnosis and deliver new and improved ways to treat and support patients.

The key aims of the strategy are to:

  • Boost the supply of the best equipment to deliver greater resilience to healthcare challenges, such as pandemics, and enhance NHS performance through modernised technology to enable faster diagnosis, treatment and ultimately discharge to free up hospital beds.
  • Encourage innovative research and attract investment for the UK economy and create jobs across the country. In 2021, there were around 60 different research programmes supporting innovative technologies, representing over £1 billion of funding.
  • Increase understanding and awareness of medtech by clinicians to allow 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.

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.”

Peter Ellingworth of the Association of British HealthTech Industries said: “ABHI welcomes the publication of the DHSC MedTech Strategy, and the recognition it brings to the importance of healthtech in supporting the NHS to deliver exceptional care for people in the UK. 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.”

Sandrine Moirez, senior vice president, international general manager at digital healthcare company iRhythm, welcomed the strategy’s publication, saying it outlined the importance of game-changing innovations, and the significance of healthtech companies in providing the NHS with an efficient working framework.

“It is good to see the Government recognising the value of accelerating adoption of innovative products, especially when they improve clinical, operational, and financial outcomes.”It’s vital for the long-term success of the NHS that proven technologies, those that demonstrate improved clinician and patient experience, along with operational and financial system benefits, are speedily – yet safely – adopted nationwide. This will make a huge difference for a whole host of sectors, including cardiology.”

Valerie Phillips from PA Consulting believes that in combination with revised UK medical device regulatory requirements, the strategy can facilitate innovation across the sector and the UK is well placed to play a central role globally in ensuring that innovations make a lasting impact on patient outcomes and drive equal access to care to patients across a range of pathways.

“Through a collaborative approach, by issuing clear demand signalling and engaging with industry from the outset, innovation pathways will be facilitated by the strategy.

“In an increasingly complex landscape, with a plethora of options on products and solutions, the MedTech strategy sets out a clear vision to ensure the right products reach the right patients in the right circumstances. This will ensure that innovative products reach patients to produce desired health outcomes. “

Ellie Kearney, policy lead, Health Tech Alliance, was pleased about the strategy’s publication and encouraged by policy recommendations but feels that it doesn’t go far enough to address adoption challenges.

“We are encouraged by the fact that many of our key policy recommendations made it to the final report, such as making the supply chain more resilient; increasing awareness among clinicians; greater use of real-world evidence; streamlined approach across all areas of technology within the health system; and a centralised approach to data collection.

“However, the strategy goes nowhere near enough to truly address the challenges in medtech adoption in England. It takes approximately 17 years for a device to be adopted in the NHS, and it is extremely disappointing that the strategy did not touch on faster adoption routes. It also offered no solutions for sustainable long-term funding solutions which are key for SMEs and the industry at large if they hope to be adopted within the NHS at this time of need.

“We will continue to liaise with the MedTech Directorate to ensure the implementation plan benefits the medtech sector and hope to prioritise the key areas that were left unaddressed within the strategy.”

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