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Innovation and Integrated Care Systems discussed by leading experts in health and life sciences

In the third of a series of features, leading experts in the healthcare and life sciences sectors joined the Mayor of Greater Manchester at a question-time panel discussion in Liverpool.

In the final part of the discussion, Angela McFarlane, Vice President of Strategic Planning, Northern Europe at IQVIA looked at innovation and the potential benefits brought from the instalment of Integrated Care Systems in July this year.

In response to the first question from the audience on ensuring innovations are adopted equitably and at scale, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham emphasised a two-pronged approach at the national and local level. The Mayor noted the importance of NICE and expanding its use as a central national body, arguing that throughout its history it has shown capability in delivering incredible innovation. Locally, he argued that the instalment of Integrated Care System provides an opportunity to spread examples of best practice at scale. Mr Burnham added that integrating the voluntary and community sector further into the health system can aid in delivering much needed innovation, stating the need to “cement a new and more significant role for the voluntary and community sector within the health system – as permanent and long-term partners rather than the approach where they are often on the fringes.”

Former Minister for Innovation, Lord James O’Shaughnessy added an important point that “we are brilliant at creativity in this country and very poor at scaling. By the way that is not just true of health but true across our whole economy”. In life sciences, the UK faces the challenge of utilising traditional strengths in clinical research and fostering an ecosystem for adoption at scale. In the long-term, achieving this will be difficult and time-consuming; however the UK can achieve adoption of innovative treatments and technologies in the short-term.

Adding further on the UK’s innovation environment, he said: “you won’t get scaling in innovation unless you have reimbursement. We have it for drugs, we don’t have it for other things. You cannot expect one part of the system to behave like the other when there is that fundamental difference.”

Speaking on the opportunities for change, Lord O’Shaughnessy noted that creating accountability and transparency at the local level about the amount of time spent on R&D and innovation by clinicians as part of their daily practice would aid the UK system.

Are we investing enough?

The final question to the panel came from William Pope, Chair of the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network, who asked the frank question on if we are currently investing enough into the innovation agenda to achieve the desired impacts on social determinants of health.

The Mayor answered candidly “no, definitely not”, but that in Greater Manchester the devolved health authorities are working to secure as much investment as possible. He noted that on the surface the Government are seeking an accelerator but that much more needs to be done. Liverpool Councillor, Richard Kemp agreed on this point and highlighted the huge achievements in innovation seen during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his view, the challenge is to ensure these achievements are not forgotten, thereby avoiding pushing us to return to the frustrating model that exists currently. Lord O’Shaughnessy made the important point that whilst “in the spending review, for the next three years there is going to be an increase in health R&D funding from the centre of government. But my question is how much of that is actually controlled locally to deliver on local objectives? I suspect even more of it than ever is being is being centrally controlled and that’s a problem.”

Final thought

The final topic of the discussion truly tackled the heart of the innovation agenda and how innovation can be utilised to achieve the desired health outcomes. Members of the panel, particularly the Mayor, were very frank on the current state of innovation in the UK and on levels of investment.

Clearly, there are great traditional strengths in the UK in producing incredible research and the coronavirus pandemic proved the capability of the sector to align in overcoming a public health crisis. However, there are many avenues for progress and a structural shift of the health and life science sector is needed to achieve these ambitions.

The depth of expertise and breadth of experience on the panel and in the audience gave great strength to the discussion, drawing valuable ideas and conclusions on this important topic. The successful event from Chamber UK and IQVIA set a high bar for further discussions on the issue of levelling up in the healthcare and life sciences sectors.

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