ABHI Membership

The Impact of COVID-19: A Case Study from Becton Dickinson (BD)

Reacting to swift change is hard for any business. All of us in the UK, including the medical technology industry (MedTech), are at the centre of arguably the greatest challenge to have faced our economy, society and health services since World War II.

How we handle it is crucial, as is the continued support needed for our healthcare system. Making our way through this journey, back to some semblance of normality, is done alongside our continuing commitment to the NHS.

The terrific partnership we have seen continue to develop and deliver recently between industry and government will need to endure, once the initial crisis has subsided. MedTech will help lead the way in innovation, whilst working with others to develop best future working practices to ensure the safety of both patients and healthcare professionals.

Ramping up track and trace currently appears to be the most viable way out of lockdown. The commitment from the government to support good quality testing, is hugely welcome. Also welcome is the enthusiasm with which this challenge has been met across the life sciences sector and wider industry.

For those of us in diagnostics, the eyes of the world are on us as never before, from political leaders to health workers, employers, and patients. Businesses like BD must show the ingenuity, collaboration and energy, which is needed to meet this mission. The challenge is perhaps greater for the MedTech industry to deliver rapidly on screening, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment.

MedTech will need to consider the following three areas for how businesses in our sector will deliver.

Firstly, we must show an unprecedented degree of flexibility and ingenuity, not just in research and innovation, but harnessing capability wherever it lies. Delivering new, effective products at the huge volumes and international reach required will demand us to be more agile and open-minded. In addition, we must make available our expertise in automation, which offers solutions for much of the pre-existing workforce and patient safety related challenges.

Secondly, we must be ambitious and optimistic in our search for solutions, but frank and transparent, sharing both the learnings and the limitations of our work. Patients do not need false starts or empty promises. It is only through honest appraisal and collaboration that we really advance scientific discovery towards what we need.

Thirdly, we must be a constructive and problem-solving partner to the UK Government. As we move through the initial period and first peak of this crisis, we will enter another phase where operating models for our health services, businesses and societies may remain unclear for a while.

From supplies of diagnostic instruments to COVID-19 test kits, and innovations in product design and manufacturing, we are showing just how much can be achieved when government and our sector apply themselves to common goals. This kind of partnership needs to be a legacy from COVID-19 if we are to deliver the substantially enlarged and empowered diagnostics industry in the UK in the future.

I have no doubt we will continue to earn the respect of policy-makers, health workers and the public in the weeks ahead, delivering today while also being solutions-focussed about how we design a diagnostics industrial strategy for the longer term.

Mike Fairbourn, VP & GM UK & Ireland, Becton Dickinson (BD) and ABHI Board Member