Wilmington Healthcare examines key areas of the Life Sciences Recovery Roadmap report, exploring how medtech should respond in the recovery following Coronavirus.
Transforming partnership with the NHS, an agile approach to regulation, and accelerating patient access to new and improved treatments will be of utmost importance in the post-COVID landscape, according to a joint statement by Life Science professional bodies.
Life Sciences Recovery Roadmap: A joint report to the Life Sciences COVID-19 Response Group highlights six areas that will be crucial to the way medtech works with the NHS in the future:
- Transforming NHS partnership and supporting the Long Term Plan
- Developing a comprehensive strategy to improve UK manufacturing capability and supply chain excellence
- Encouraging ‘globally competitive’ R&D incentives
- Transforming the UK clinical research process
- Taking an innovative approach to regulation
- Accelerating deployment of new and existing technologies
Supporting the Long Term Plan
Building on and learning from the COVID-19 response, NHS leadership should develop strategic processes to involve industry in work to support NHS transformation and healthcare provision, the report says.
This should include the retention of changes in adoption of innovation and digital solutions, but also embedding new ways of working, including harnessing the potential of data, promoting self-care, bringing healthcare closer to home, and diagnosing and treating faster.
Industry is keen to work with the government on how the NHS and health infrastructure can be supported during the COVID-19 recovery process and thereafter, and seeks longer-term recognition from NHS England/Improvement (NHSE-I) of the Life Sciences sector as a strategic partner in improving health outcomes.
Manufacturing and supply chains
Although the report noted that supply chains had generally responded well in the crisis, it said additional resilience could be provided through improved demand forecasts and transparency along the supply chain. It called for support for supply diversification, international inventory management and the development of a strategic reserve of essential products.
In parallel, there should also be a focus on targeted support for UK manufacturing of medical technology and diagnostics. It recommended this be achieved by setting up a new group that is equipped to focus on supply resilience across the life sciences industry or through expanding existing groups.
Manufacturing facilities being built in the UK could be supported by grants, and innovation funding made available for collaborative R&D.
A specific Life Sciences Council workstream to support growth in the SME base would also ensure that UK manufacturing capability is broadened.
Accelerating deployment of new and existing technologies
The report notes that the COVID-19 response has shown that rapid scale-up of existing treatments, devices and diagnostics can significantly improve patient outcomes while making more effective use of NHS resources.
It saw the need for decisive action to build on this, especially as the NHS will now have to address the backlog of care for non-COVID patients.
The learning from the pandemic should be factored into a rapid evolution of NICE methods to support patients getting fast access to new treatments and technologies, it argued.
It also called for a practical assessment of opportunities and challenges in the health technology procurement system, that should be carried out with the support of the Health Technology Partnership.
In order for all this to happen, there would need to be a shared vision and a joint working group across DHSC, OLS, NHSE, NICE and industry to set out the level of ambition – and support NICE to make the changes that are necessary.
The Life Science industries are gearing up to make the positive changes made possible by the pandemic a standard part of the UK healthcare landscape. Procurement, regulation and assessment are all areas for swift and beneficial development.
Future procurement strategy for critical devices should not be based on lowest cost alone, but should also consider value, secure plurality of supply and a multi-vendor approach in critical areas.
It links the constant emphasis on price in the NHS and single supplier contracts, with manufacturing being driven to low cost labour markets, weakening the resilience of UK supply.
Ultimately, a partnership approach is needed: systems should be rebalanced to include a commitment from the NHS to purchase as well as a commitment from industry to supply, at least for critical supplies.