The Government’s overall vision for the Strategy is to facilitate the supply of: the ‘right product’ (clinically safe and effective), at the ‘right price’ (reasonable and sustainable), in the ‘right place’ (with the patients and professionals who need them). The Strategy sets out four priority focus areas, including supply resilience and a focus on two particular market segments: diagnostics and MedTech in the Community.
The Strategy itself is light on details, and detailed implantation plans are to follow shortly. The Strategy recognises the importance of industry collaboration and has been welcomed by the UK industry body, the ABHI.
UK MedTech Strategy in detail
The Strategy sets out four priority focus areas:
Priority 1: Resilience and continuity of supply of MedTech products
This priority highlights a general shift towards proactively addressing supply chain issues, with a view to ensuring long-term continuity of sustainable supply.
The Strategy underlines the need for the Government to prioritise the continuity of supply of MedTech products in the context of major incidents and events (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), and MedTech producers are encouraged to keep continuity of supply at the forefront of their business goals, generally. Increasing manufacturing capability and capacity for MedTech devices in the UK rather than offshore production is also encouraged.
Priority 1 also supports a general shift towards the sustainable sourcing of MedTech products in the UK. This includes moving from single-use devices towards devices designed to be decontaminated and re-used, and prioritising devices designed to operate in conjunction with multiple products, to reduce the strain on supply.
Priority 2: Supporting innovative and dynamic markets
This priority focuses on the need for meaningful comparison and coordination around new MedTech products, to ensure that the most appropriate products are acquired for the NHS.
The Strategy recommends building on clinical leadership, with national clinical teams to agree on product specifications, evaluate products against best practice, patient experience and outcomes and highlight where innovative technologies are needed.
It finds that NHS and industry resources are often wasted on repeated evaluation of MedTech products and recommends focusing on a smaller number of products that represent the best options for patients and the best value for money. It suggests that the NHS must learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and increase industry confidence in its intent to buy those products, through transparency in its procurement and a commitment-based process.
Priority 3: Enabling infrastructure
This area focuses on systems, processes and data collections which promote development in the MedTech industry.
The Strategy describes various existing data initiatives, but notes that these are currently operating independently of one another. This results in pockets of rich data, but with gaps which could be filled if more information were shared across various resources. The Strategy also emphasises a single national data standard, to reduce difficulties in referencing data from different sources.
Collaboration between the Government and private industry is also actively encouraged. Currently, Government and industry choose to collect data reactively, according to their specific priorities and pressures. The Strategy highlights lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, which demonstrated that more proactive data gathering on required medical equipment is needed.
Priority 4: Specific focus on key issues and markets
The Strategy flags that specific areas of focus will develop over time in response to market conditions and clinical requirements. For now, the two main areas of focus are ‘MedTech in the community’ and ‘diagnostics’.
‘MedTech in the community’ involves promoting choice on products used by patients and professionals, by making it easier to compare products.
On ‘diagnostics’, the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of fast and accurate diagnostic testing. In this area, the Strategy encourages increased use of Community Diagnostic Centres, to encourage effective and efficient diagnosis. The Strategy notes that the NHS will need to provide clear signals to the UK diagnostics sector, encouraging industry innovation in the specific areas that require this.
Industry reaction to UK MedTech Strategy
The reaction of the ABHI (Association of British HealthTech Industries) was positive, seeing the Strategy as a “very clear acknowledgement of the importance of HealthTech in supporting the NHS to deliver exceptional care for people in the UK”, and emphasising that collaboration with the UK industry will be “key” to the success of realising the Government’s Life Sciences Vision for the UK.
Despite being important for the UK economy and health care system, the UK Government recognises that the MedTech industry has so far operated at an economic level without significant central intervention and without a clear centralised strategic approach.
The Strategy does little more than set a framework for future action, and details of specific initiatives are yet to be set out. An implementation plan for the strategy is due to be published shortly (apparently in “early 2023”). However, the proposals as put forward have the potential to impact the way in which MedTech businesses operate, including their models for product development and innovation in order to meet these aims.
The Strategy acknowledges that strong collaboration is one of the factors which will be critical to success and states that a framework will be established for industry collaboration, with “continual engagement and feedback from stakeholders”.