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At the NHS Confederation conference on 15-17 June 2016, NHS England head Simon Stevens announced the launch of a programme to speed up the uptake of innovations in the NHS.
The programme means that the NHS will provide an “explicit national reimbursement route” for “medical technology [medtech] innovations” through introducing an innovation and technology tariff category.
“From April 2017, we will add a piece to the national tariff system specifically for new medtech innovations that have been shown to be cost-saving or help patients with supported self-management,” said Stevens.
NHS England hopes the new tariff will reduce the need for “multiple local price negotiations” and guarantee that NHS organisations will get reimbursement automatically when they use an approved innovation.
NHS England will also negotiate national bulk buy price discounts on behalf of local NHS organsiations, which Stevens said will “take out the hassle of having to try to negotiate these things on a trust by trust or practice by practice basis”.
“We are leaving money on the table and leaving opportunity unaddressed,” said Stevens, adding that although the NHS and the clinicians can see innovations that will make a difference, those innovations are not being fully utilised.
According to Stevens, while the new tariff is not “the be-all and end-all”, it’s an attempt of “trying to fast track beneficial innovation in to front-line clinical practice”.
Bridging the funding gap
In the spending review last autumn, chancellor George Osborne said the overall funding plan drawn up for the NHS – which will see it receive an increase of £4bn in funding in 2016, frontloading the government’s promise to deliver an additional £8bn a year to the NHS by 2020 – will completely bridge the £30bn funding gap by the end of this parliament.
Stevens said that the “u-shaped” funding settlement “can be regarded as good as would be obtainable under those circumstances”.
The way the funding works has consequences, such as the extra purchasing power deliver some of the changes desperately needed, is back-ended “ towards the 2019, 2020 period,” he said.
“We have got to use 2016/17 as the reset moment to get our finances, our performance, back in a place where we can then pivot off to the rest of what this 5 year settlement looks like.”
Commenting on Steven’s speech, IMS Maxims CEO Shane Tickell said that the “resetting of finances” and the u-shaped funding settlement “will no doubt unsettle many service providers.”
“Digital technology is sometimes seen by the NHS as a high-cost, high-risk investment. It can entail costly license fees, lengthy and inflexible contracts and high support costs,” Tickell said.
“I'm proposing something completely different – off-balance sheet investment in digital that means service providers can use technology to deliver better, safer patient care, whilst also addressing their run rates. This should make a significant difference, particularly as we are yet to enter the bottom of the U shaped funding settlement.”
As part of the drive to get more innovation into the NHS, Stevens also announced that the second wave of the NHS Innovation Accelerator Programme has opened up for submissions.
In January 2016, Stevens launched the first wave of NHS Innovation Test Beds. The test beds include five health and care innovations and two internet of things (IoT) related projects, with health and care workers evaluating the combination of devices and data analysis to see how they can best help patients.