Government outlines its strategy to improve access to patient healthcare through MedTech

United Kingdom

The Department of Health and Social Care (“DHSC”) published its medical technology strategy in February 2023. This is the first strategy published which recognises the importance of leveraging the medical technology (“MedTech”) industry in improving access and delivering first class healthcare to patients in the current climate where the NHS is facing multiple pressures. Although this is a high level strategy, it does outline some important areas of focus for the DHSC which will have implications on the MedTech industry.

The DHSC estimates the NHS spends £10 billion per year on MedTech which can range from: general medical devices such as syringes, ECG monitors and CT scanners; active implantable medical devices that are left in the body such as pacemakers; in vitro diagnostic medical devices to examine specimens; and digital health and supporting software. The DHSC acknowledges that the MedTech industry is vital for the wider UK economy, securing the UK’s status as a major player in global healthcare, and  particularly for improving health and social care outcomes for patients.

The NHS is currently facing challenges in relation to a larger aging population and the challenges on the health and social care system that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic did however highlight the importance of MedTech innovations and delivery of ventilators and lateral flow tests playing a vital role in the response to the pandemic. Learnings can be taken from the pandemic and the MedTech sector has therefore been highlighted for its crucial input in improving access to healthcare and alleviating the current pressures on the NHS.

The strategy outlines three central objectives for the delivery of high quality care for patients:

  • Right product – the strategy focuses on the delivery of products that are clinically safe and effective by developing best practice regulations and safety standards.
  • Right price – products must deliver value for money and affordability across the whole patient pathway. There is an acknowledgement that the lowest price may not necessarily represent best value for patients.
  • Right place – emphasis is placed on the importance of having access to products through a responsive and resilient supply chain as and when products are required.

The three objectives are to be achieved through four priority areas:

  • Resilience and continuity of supply – continuity of supply of MedTech products is crucial for the provision of timely and safe patient care. MedTech supply chains can often constitute intricate international supply chain models dependent on global trading agreements and global events. The strategy recognises the need to set clear direction of travel to mitigate issues with supply in the current system.
  • Innovative and dynamic markets – the strategy acknowledges there can often be barriers within the NHS that may hinder innovation and providing value for money. The strategy considers how best to utilise innovations within the MedTech sector and recommends developing a clear framework for communicating the benefits of innovative products as these may not always be effectively communicated within the healthcare system. The strategy also recognises the need to develop a product evaluation system with industry and streamline the procurement process for suppliers.
  • Enabling infrastructure – in order to deliver the objectives set out in the strategy, there is a need to develop an underlying framework of enablers to tackle issues relating to the lack of clear data to identify current issues and emerging trends in the sector. The framework of enablers will aid the NHS in making well informed decisions that impacts the provision of high quality care. The strategy further sets out the need to create communication channels for government and suppliers to engage centrally and establish collaborative and open conversations whilst respecting commercial sensitivities. 
  • Specific market focuses – the MedTech industry is diverse and it is recognised that an approach is needed to identify challenges and issues that are specific to particular types of technology, patient populations, and areas of clinical specialisms. The DHSC is aiming to proactively identify these areas and adapt the strategy to meet specific needs.

The DHSC has also set out that the objectives and measures outlined in the strategy will be delivered to support existing initiatives. These initiatives range from assisting the NHS in delivering its net zero ambition, progression of sustainability issues such as reducing the use of single-use plastic across the NHS supply chain, work towards the new UK Medical Devices Regulatory Framework, and NHS Core20PLUS5 approach to reducing healthcare inequalities. We expect to see further developments in this sector and for more information, please contact one of the following local CMS experts or your usual contact at CMS.