Medical Technologies Directorate Launches Long-Awaited Strategy
In May 2021, it was announced that a new Medical Technologies Directorate was set to be established.
Sitting within the Department of Health and Social Care, its creation was intended to support supply, regulation, innovation and value within the UK’s HealthTech sector.
This February, the Directorate published the long-awaited Strategy, and it is set to deliver on four priority areas:
Resilience and Continuity of Supply
From the covid pandemic, high demand of key products and the interruptions in manufacturing and distribution that occurred, through to semiconductors and energy supply challenges, recent years have acutely demonstrated just how important supply resilience is, and even the most straightforward products can be critically affected. The Strategy rightly recognises this, and the need for multifactorial contingency measures to mitigate any future challenges. Collaboration with the Directorate will be important for highlighting any potential issues around supply and associated mitigation measures. One of the ways we can build that resilience in more broadly, is by ensuring a healthy and dynamic HealthTech sector within the UK. This applies across all stages of product life cycle, from R&D, design, production, maintenance, repair and remanufacture.
Innovative and Dynamic Markets
The Strategy also highlights the importance of the clinical voice in articulating what problems need to be solved, which can then inform HealthTech development and drive faster access to HealthTech solutions that meet NHS needs. The Strategy aims to have a clear, readily accessible, and clinically driven national view of what is available to meet those wider NHS priorities. Critical to this will be clear adoption pathways by the NHS for those HealthTech solutions.
To make the Strategy and its objectives come to life, appropriate infrastructure must be in place, and data is key. There is already extensive coverage of HealthTech data from products being put on the market, and the Strategy emphasises the need to make this readily accessible and consistent. Product datasets can then be linked and used for a range of purposes, not just what they were originally gathered for. This data can be utilised to encourage innovation in clinical areas of greatest need, and can also be used as part of procurement decision making. The NHS is data rich but poor at leveraging the value of the data it has access to, and the Strategy’s intent should transform that capability leading to even better patient outcomes.
Specific Market Focuses
There is welcome recognition around patient empowerment. Patients are the heart of all NHS care the same is true for HealthTech innovation. What is most important is that clinicians and patients should have access to resources to help them compare and select the most appropriate product needed for their intervention, and that the same solution may not be best for everyone. Diagnostics is an important element here, and ready access to testing, regardless of location, will be critical to improving patient outcomes.
Whilst much of the detail is still to follow, and indeed, an implementation plan for the Strategy is set to be published later this year, the publication is a very clear acknowledgment of the importance of HealthTech in supporting the NHS to deliver exceptional care for people in the UK.
At ABHI, we have reiterated to the Directorate that it is crucial for the Strategy to support the ambition of the Life Sciences Vision, which is to create an outstanding business environment for HealthTech companies. We look forward to working closely with the Directorate on implementation to meet this objective, and as ever, collaboration will be key.