December 29, 2016 By FTI Consulting
The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has warned of a “bloody tough” year ahead for the health service, and urged politicians and the general population to not “rewrite history” in terms of representing how much funding the NHS has called for over the course of this Parliament.
The scale of the challenge presenting itself before the NHS in 2017 is vast. The NHS is facing huge financial and operational pressures. Several years of funding restraint and rising demand for services mean that it is increasingly difficult for NHS services to maintain standards of care. Waiting times are increasing and key performance targets for hospitals are being routinely missed. These pressures are being felt right across the NHS.
Key for the delivery of a NHS fit for the twenty first century will be the faster uptake and use of innovative medicines and technologies, particularly for at-home care and e-health. Uptake of innovative new medicines in the NHS is notoriously low and slow – taking on average over a decade and billion pounds worth of expenditure – and there is a serious risk that the need to find efficiency savings, as outlined in the Carter Review, will further compound this problem. The Accelerated Access Review may help shorten the length of time from bench to bedside innovation, but it will require close collaboration between government and industry.
The NHS needs to transform itself into an engine of innovation, by finally adopting the digitalisation of its services, enabling use of data to accelerate research, supporting new medicines and technologies and improving productivity and patient care. It also needs to become a long-term research partner with the life sciences sector by embedding a culture of research, focusing on areas of UK strength – experimental medicine, adaptive pathways, stratified medicine and genomics.
In order to maintain unhindered access to important EU markets, the medicines regulatory system needs to remain aligned with the current EU system. The government will have a key role to play in supporting UK companies reach new global markets through trade delegations and emerging bilateral agreements in a post-Brexit world. UKTI, and its dedicated Life Science Organisation, needs to export the best of the NHS and its expertise overseas, as well as supporting international companies to become part of the UK healthcare system.
A strong NHS underpins the quality of UK healthcare both because it ensures that medical advances are made immediately available to UK patients, and because the opportunity to work at the frontier of medicine attracts the best clinicians and academics in the world to the UK. The challenge for the NHS is clear; deliver better patient outcomes whilst spending less. Coupled with the general population’s ever increasing expectation of what the NHS can deliver, ensuring the NHS in 2017 is an attractive and welcoming environment for life sciences companies and innovative is paramount.