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New NHS initiative will fast-track cutting edge medtech innovations to patients

Article By: Sue Learner, Editor

Simon Stevens, head of NHS England has announced the launch of a new programme to fast-track cutting-edge medtech innovations from across the globe to the NHS frontline.

In his keynote speech to around 1,000 NHS leaders at the NHS Confederation Conference in Manchester, Simon Stevens announced that for the first time the NHS will provide a new funding route for new medtech innovations.

This means that patients with illnesses such as diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, sleep disorders, other chronic health conditions, and common mental health disorders will be able to get hold of new medtech devices and apps a lot quicker than previously.

Mr Stevens said: “The NHS has a proud track record of world firsts in medical innovation – think hip replacements, IVF, vaccinations and organ transplants to name just a few. But then getting wide uptake has often been slow and frustrating. Now – at a time when the NHS is under pressure – rather than just running harder to stand still, it’s time to grab with both hands these practical new treatments and technologies.

“In the rest of our lives we’re seeing the difference that innovative tech makes, and now the NHS will have a streamlined way of getting ground-breaking and practical new technologies into the hands of patients and our frontline nurses, doctors and other staff. By doing that, we can transform people’s lives.”

A new Innovation and Technology tariff category will remove the need for multiple local price negotiations, and instead guarantee automatic reimbursement when an approved innovation is used, while at the same time allowing NHS England to negotiate national ‘bulk buy’ price discounts on behalf of hospitals, GPs and patients.

Mr Stevens also announced a new round of recruitment to the programme, which supports developers with tried-and-tested innovations to spread them further and faster across the health service. This follows a successful first year, which saw a rapid roll out of innovations to 68 NHS hospitals, benefitting over three million patients.

Examples of innovations supported by the NIA programme which could become routinely commissioned in the NHS:

• MyCOPD – an app which allows patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) to self-manage their condition on their phone or tablet. MyCOPD offers patients expert advice and education on how to use their medication properly and how to perform special exercises designed to improve lung function.

A 63-year-old man with a chronic lung condition said the MyCOPD app changed his life. Paul from Portsmouth was struggling with his COPD, which had left him housebound and unable to do day to day tasks until his clinician Dr Simon Bourne introduced him to the app at a hospital visit. He said: “I have used MyCOPD for nine months, I use it every day. Last year, before using MyCOPD I had 12 exacerbations, this year I have had just two. I now know when and how to take my medication, when to use my rescue pack and perform my rehab exercises most days.”

• AliveCor – a mobile heart monitor that instantly captures electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, allowing the user to detect, monitor and manage heart arrhythmias. Arrhythmias can cause sudden cardiac death, which kills 100,000 in the UK annually. The Arrhythmia Alliance estimates 80 per cent of these deaths could be avoided through better diagnosis. AliveCor also helps detect incidents of atrial fibrillation, which is responsible for a third of all strokes and costs the NHS over £2.2 billion annually.

• PneuX – a cuffed ventilation tube and inflating device which is used to electronically monitor patients breathing in intensive care to prevent bacteria leaking into the lungs – something that occurs with standard tubes and can result in ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), the leading cause of hospital-acquired mortality in Intensive Care. On average 10 – 20 per cent (10,000- 20,000) patients will be diagnosed with VAP annually, with a 30 per cent mortality rate. Each episode of VAP costs the NHS between £10k and £20k. Evaluation from New Cross, Birmingham shows that the NHS saves £700 every time the PneuX is used.


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