NHS must partner with industry to embrace technology

Healthcare providers must share expertise from the technology industry to make serious change, says NHS foundation CEO David Dalton

Healthcare providers must find ways to partner and share expertise from the technology industry to make serious change in the NHS.

“We have to change the mindsets to working in partnership with the commercial sector,” said David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

“If the NHS wants to adopt new technology at scale, we need to find those new ways of partnering and sharing expertise,” he said at the Reform Future of Health event in London.

Dalton said the risk facing NHS organisations when adopting new technologies should be shared with suppliers.

Speaking on the same panel, Mike Fairbourn, vice-president of Care Fusion, agreed: “The pace of innovation coming into the NHS is too slow and variable across the country,” he said.

“NHS leaders have a role to play in this by embracing partnerships.”

Fairbourn agreed that suppliers should share the risk. “There is technology already out there in healthcare systems, but it is not delivering what manufactures promised it would. The main problem is implementation and the NHS should hold suppliers like Care Fusion to account, so we support full implementation.”

Technology investment

Fairbourn explained that if a shared-risk model was more widely adopted, health organisations would be more willing to invest money in new technologies.

“In order to put value at heart of NHS, NHS leaders and industry have to work together,” he said. “If we can develop a more open partnership with the NHS and move towards risk-share models, the industry takes some of the risk and this will help organisations afford investment in new technologies which will, in the longer term, help save money.”

During his keynote at the same Reform event, health minister Jeremy Hunt talked about his vision for better health and social care which included encouraging the NHS to be much better at embracing innovation.

He said the UK had made some of the biggest scientific advancements – including decoding the double helix – but, when it came to adopting technology, the NHS had been too slow.

Innovation budget

Hunt said the NHS should look towards the UK’s successful startup economy to find technology which could help patients better manage their health.

“If there’s a startup gadget for people with diabetes that costs £100 and makes people more likely to stick to their regime and less likely to visit hospital – that’s a no-brainer, we should be buying that,” said Hunt.

“But in practice, no-one wants to buy it.”

Hunt said clinical commission groups struggle with budgets and do not see the benefit of spending extra money on startup technologies that are not widely used. But he said he had asked all clinical commission groups to have their patient costings in place by the end of the next financial year – which he hopes will allow them to see where technology could help make savings.

“If someone with diabetes costs £5,500 per year, and with this gadget the cost is reduced to £4,500 per year, then I think they will buy that gadget for all those patients.”

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