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Department of Health enhances medical innovation programme

The Accelerated Access Collaborative initiative is expected to fast-track pioneering treatments and produce multimillion-pound savings to the NHS

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has enhanced a programme aimed at fast-tracking medical innovation and bringing up to £30m in savings to the NHS.

Designed to speed up the time it takes for NHS patients to get access to innovative treatments for a range of medical issues such as cancer, dementia and diabetes, the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC) programme was set up last year as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan.

The initiative – which brings together the government, NHS and the private sector – is being boosted to become an umbrella organisation for UK health innovation. It aims to accelerate “the most promising medicines, diagnostic tools and digital services through the clinical development and regulatory approval process”.

A new unit in NHS England (NHSE) and NHS Improvement (NHSI) will be established as part of the relaunch, led by Sam Roberts – currently director of innovation and research at NHSE&I – as chief executive.

The new unit will have an integrated innovation and medicines senior management team across NHSE&I to coordinate medicines policy, commercial agreements and broader innovation policy and delivery.

“Our ambition is very clear: the NHS will be the most innovative health care system in the world with much easier access and much quicker uptake of new and innovative products,” NHS England chair David Prior said.

“This applies to therapeutics, diagnostics, digital devices and our whole supply chain. It is a top priority for the NHS,” he added.

Expected to affect around 500,000 patients, the new AAC will act as the “front door” for innovators looking to get their products funded by the NHS. It will also oversee a health innovation funding strategy.

The AAC has already selected and supported 12 “rapid uptake products” to increase their use within the NHS, including a blood test for suspected pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

One of the key priorities for the organisation is to signal the needs of patients and clinicians to the market, so companies know which areas they need to focus on.

The AAC will also provide a “single point of call” to provide support to innovators as well as a testing infrastructure.

In addition, the organisation will implement a system to identify new innovations and support the NHS in the adoption of clinically and cost-effective innovations.

The new and boosted AAC follows other initiatives aimed at supporting and growing the healthtech sector and improving access to innovation in the NHS.

In October, the government launched the second wave of its NHS Test Beds Programme, with seven projects across the country sharing more than £7m in funding to trial technology in clinical settings.

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