A plan to review the £1bn spent on primary care ‘medtech’ items has been announced by the Government to ensure GP practices can make ‘better choices’ around the products they buy and prescribe to patients.
The review is part of the Medical Technology Strategy unveiled last week by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). This spans both primary and secondary care, setting out the steps needed to improve access to innovative equipment across the NHS.
A key part will look at appliances in primary care – those that are listed in Part IX of the Drug Tariff, for example continence products such as stoma bags, dressings for wound care, and reagent strips for home testing (such as for blood glucose).
One of the aims of the review is to make it easier for clinicians and patients to compare, contrast and select the most appropriate products, and enable better decision making around purchasing.
It will also look at updating administrative arrangements for providing appliances to patients, (from the supply chain to how they are prescribed and dispensed), which the strategy paper says is a ‘one size fits all approach originally dating from the 1980s.’ The review will focus on streamlining and speeding these systems up as well as creating transparency across the NHS to reduce variations in service.
The strategy paper said: ‘Although these [medtech items] products are typically identical to those used in secondary care, in the community they are sourced and supplied through fundamentally different supply chains and mechanisms to reach patients.
‘The mechanics by which appliances are provided to patients in the community have changed little since they were established in the 1980s, in stark contrast to the rapid development of medtech and the substantial evolution of community care services over this same period.’
It added: ‘There is opportunity to review and improve these arrangements to better reflect today’s operational environment, and to deliver better outcomes for patients and the taxpayer.’
The strategy also outlined aims to increase the resilience and continuity of supply of medtech appliances and devices, (everything from syringes to surgical equipment and more) during threats, such as pandemics; and ensure technology will enable faster diagnosis, treatment and discharging.
The implementation plan to deliver the strategy will be published later this year, the DHSC said.
Dr Timothy Ferris, national director for transformation at NHS England said: ‘Medical technology has an enormous role to play in benefitting patients now and in the future.
‘The importance of medtech was made clear during the Covid-19 pandemic and as the NHS moves through its recovery, it will play a key role in addressing the challenges we face.’