Oli Hudson, of Wilmington Healthcare, explores some of the issues affecting MedTech in 2020 now the Conservatives have won power
For healthcare communities, many unanswered questions remain about the sizeable Conservative election win on the 12th December.
Many are to do with Brexit: what shape will the future trading relationship with Europe take, what will it mean for regulation, standards, supply chains, and the movement of the people that staff the service? How will it affect our relationship with the rest of the world, and the import and export of medical products?
The NHS will be affected by the result of all this, and in the coming months the MedTech industry will be watching closely to see how the situation develops.
Brexit aside, what we can do in the meantime is take a sober look at the manifesto and attempt to pick out what will be implemented.
How much money will the NHS now have?
We can assume that base funding for the NHS will increase by 29 per cent – £650 million extra a week by the end of the parliament. Is this amount enough to get the NHS out of trouble? Bodies such as the Nuffield Trust think it might be – and speak positively about the Tory spend in relation to the other parties. What is less clear is how social care will be paid for – which will have a huge impact on demand, which in turn is the problem we keep coming back to. The manifesto hopefully suggests prevention will see investment, but it is difficult at the moment to see if this will be enough to effect real change – especially as no figure has been put on this. Will this mean growth in CCG and ICS budgets?
What will this money actually be spent on?
According to the manifesto, staff and buildings. The 50,000 new nurses pledge has been much-analysed (and the figure debunked down to 31,000). However, targets like this have been missed in the past and the NHS Visa policy – which will fast track staff from abroad – is an unknown quantity.
While the numbers have been much debated, the manifesto does say 40 new hospitals will be built over the next 10 years. This will mean, of course, a new market for OT, suites and facilities. Some of the larger MedTech companies will wish to keep a close eye on this and what it will mean for procurement. There are already opportunities to connect on this with some 34 hospitals that have received so-called ‘seed funding’ to develop business cases for building later in the next decade. Managed service contracts could see a boost.
We do however need to take this programme with a pinch of salt. Another health think tank, the King’s Fund, has said: “On the face of it, the various schemes being pledged by the government certainly sound like substantial investment, but these piecemeal announcements are not the same as having a proper, multi-year capital funding plan. The lack of clarity around how the new schemes have been selected and how the pledges fit within the Department for Health and Social Care’s overall financial settlement makes it difficult to tell how generous the government is being.”
One sector that will see growth is diagnostics and screening technology, with some specific pledges to cancer diagnostic machines across 78 hospital trusts to boost early diagnosis.
The Tories pledge to “study carefully the recommendations of the ongoing review led by NHS clinical staff into A&E and clinical performance”. This suggests such initiatives as GIRFT – getting it right first time – will continue to be rolled out, and the drive towards efficiency, in technique, process, staffing and procurement – is far from over. We can expect the full range of GIRFT reports to be published over the next couple of years and the so-called ‘GIRFT teams’ – which visit hospitals to oversee transformational work – will stay with us.
The future of health technology?
There is also a pledge to create an ‘annual health technology summit’ – though whether this will take the shape of some kind of EXPO, or will effectively be an outsourced policy-making and procurement strategy body – is unclear.
In general, the Conservatives will be keen to keep the life science industries onside and investing in post-Brexit Britain; and this of course includes home-grown SMEs. The initiative started under the Cameron and May governments that became the Accelerated Access Collaborative looks likely to stay.
It aims, via the work of the AHSNs, to aid high speed adoption and diffusion of innovative technologies. The AAC has already published a programme of deliverables. It links successful applications to funding and advice, including an innovation and technology tariff payment for providers; and offers bespoke support of categories of early stage products.
In addition there will be a launch of a single horizon-scanning platform across all partners; a pilot expanding real-world testing within NHS, leveraging private capital; significant spread of AAC rapid uptake products, and AHSN national programmes.