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Collaborative working: changing the dial on industry’s role in healthcare in the post-pandemic UK

Steve Ferguson

Steven Ferguson

Principal, Head of Strategic Market Access (UK&I) at IQVIA

Steven Ferguson writes about the importance of industry and NHS collaboration to support the post-pandemic recovery. www.iqvia.com

System pressures, including COVID-19, workforce capacity and the NHS carbon footprint continue to significantly impact the UK healthcare system. To address such pressures, a collaboration between the NHS and industry is needed, particularly at a time when the NHS is transforming faster than ever before to meet rapidly changing patient needs.

A collaboration between the NHS and industry was highlighted as a key learning from the COVID-19 pandemic, in which many areas of the NHS Long Term Plan were achieved. Collaboration with industry meant that changes in patient care pathways allowed for the remote management of patients and the implementation of patient support networks. This meant that the footfall in hospitals was reduced and proved beneficial in the management of the pandemic.

Collaboration is crucial

The need for greater collaboration was also highlighted during 2020 in the NHS Green Agenda – Delivering a Net Zero Health Service – where the NHS pledged to work with industry to encourage carbon transparency reporting to reduce the overall volume of carbon emissions put out by the healthcare sector. Such initiatives and shared objectives help set the tone that industry is no longer seen as just a manufacturer of medicines but a sector that can support and partner with the NHS to meet its national and local priorities.

To what extent has collaboration continued into 2022? As the NHS continues to address the increasing backlog in treatment and diagnostic services and with the vacancy and absence rates putting the workforce under more pressure than ever, a collaborative working between the NHS and industry is vital if the service is not to become completely overwhelmed and if it is to deliver on the priorities and ambitions it has set itself.

The shift to Integrated Care Systems (ICS) represents the need for joined-up care. Traditionally siloed organisations must now work together to deliver health and social care in England and tailor healthcare services to meet the needs of their local populations. ICS can therefore be seen as the vehicle to build upon and further enhance the collaboration between the NHS and industry. For industry, uncertainty remains as to how ICS will impact their day-to-day business operations and companies will need to be prepared to implement a multi-layered approach when engaging with the NHS in preparation of bringing a product to the market.

Watch the NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission Inquiry Session on clinical research

Optimising NHS resources

The pandemic has shown that the value of a product now goes beyond the product itself and is more about what benefit it brings to the wider NHS system, to ensure that NHS resources are used in an optimal way. This means that industry value propositions must align with the priorities of individual ICS, as well as the broader aims of the national health policy. Where appropriate, industry will also need to partner with Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to reshape pathways to ensure optimal access to the most innovative medicines, supporting the ambitions of government-led policies.

Preparing the system at both a national and sub-national level for innovative technologies is going to be the challenge for both industry and the NHS, therefore, a collaborative approach will be essential to enable early patient access at the point of approval (HTA).

Still some way to go

What will it take for the NHS to feel confident in collaborating with industry? What is currently ‘getting in the way’ of closer and sustainable collaboration? How can the NHS optimise the support of industry beyond just the technologies? Prior to the pandemic, collaboration between the NHS and industry had been limited and while great strides were made during the pandemic to improve this relationship, 2022 has shown that there is still some way to go.

To move the dial in a positive direction, industry will need to work closely with ICS and stay aware of their priorities and governance plans. They will also need to consider how the burden of disease in England maps across their product portfolio and how this differs across individual localities. Most importantly of all, industry will need to identify what they need from ICS and the wider NHS system to integrate themselves into this new NHS structure as a ‘valued partner’. They will also need to continue to collaborate with the NHS, at a local level, to bring innovative medicines to local populations and deliver on other NHS priorities, such as Net Zero.

As we look towards the end of 2022, there remain uncertainties around the healthcare and market access landscape and, with the announcement of the new Prime Minister, it is important to keep a watching brief on this ever-changing landscape. The NHS and industry will also need to update their strategies and business plans to reflect the new healthcare structure and, most importantly, review how ‘ready’ they are for the new NHS.

Collaborative working can help tackle waiting lists
Collaborative working can help reduce the pressures on the NHS.

NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission

To find out more about Curia’s NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission, visit www.curiauk.com

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