Comment: Clinical partnerships - a lifeline for the NHS?

Bernard Ross of Sky Medical Technology reveals that clinical partnerships between the NHS and medical device developers will be crucial to the future delivery of NHS services, especially given the ambition for digital transformation

The NHS faces the greatest challenges in its 70-year history. Trials for new technologies could provide solutions to seemingly-insurmountable problems: surgery delays, bed blocking, and medics stretched to their limit. But, do public-private partnerships between the NHS and medtech developers hold the key? Bernard Ross, chief executive of Sky Medical Technology, discusses how the pharmaceutical and biotech industry must prioritise clinical partnerships moving forwards

Partnerships between NHS trusts and medical device manufacturers will be crucial to improve care and generate efficiencies

The NHS celebrated its 70th birthday last year, and the general public rushed to express their gratitude.

From cradle to grave, the NHS is hailed for its care of every citizen, no matter their condition, circumstance, or means.

Though a source of national pride, however, it is difficult to ignore the challenges faced by the national institution.

With a growing ageing population, the NHS must contend with evolving crises in care and funding.

For the device development company, the focus must be on the clinicians and NHS trust involved, ensuring the pressures they face are met and supported at every stage. Get this clinician-first approach right, and the potential to do good is huge

It continues to rally for a much-needed extended budget to increase support for clinicians and nurses stretched to their limit, and combat ever-growing service demands, which can have knock on effects of bed blocking and lengthy surgery delays.

Working together

Though the case for further funding is clear, the NHS recognises that innovative solutions are vital to achieve its ambitions.

It recently released its 10-year plan, committing to a ‘wide-ranging and funded programme’ to enable technology upgrades and digitally-enabled care.

The institution must strike a careful balance, recognising the need for innovative solutions to ease cost-pressures while building a strong case for further government funding.

For medtech manufacturers, respecting this balance is crucial when partnering with NHS trusts to introduce game-changing technology into clinical use.

External partnerships with some of the world’s-leading medtech developers could hold the key to battling problems and sources of frustration within UK healthcare.

The common goal is clear: clinicians, funding bodies and medtech developers are committed to improving outcomes for patients, whether through new treatments, tech to support patient care, or reducing GP waiting lists.

In practice

The NHS prides itself on safe, effective patient care, and due diligence is rightfully taken when introducing treatments and devices into the health service.

Clinical trials are vital to safely embedding new technology. Done well, they should involve the collaboration of multiple parties: device developers, funding bodies, clinicians, and nurses, to name a few.

The UK med-tech industry could hold the key to solving many of the critical issues the NHS faces, and these solutions depend on solid relationships between clinicians and industry leaders

While all share a commitment to improving patient outcomes, each party faces separate pressures.

For the clinicians, it is ensuring that the use of a device truly supports positive patient outcomes. For the funding body, the results must clearly demonstrate the economic benefit of the device for the clinical application being trialled.

For the device development company, then, the focus must be on the clinicians and NHS trust involved, ensuring the pressures they face are met and supported at every stage. Get this clinician-first approach right, and the potential to do good is huge.

Bernard Ross

The rise of medtech

A number of clinicians are making headway in harnessing medtech, cultivating productive partnerships with industry leaders to support innovations into NHS hospitals.

Success rests on seamless knowledge transfers between clinicians and industry figures. Clinicians on the ground understand the most-pressing problems at play, and the UK medtech industry has the means to refine and tailor solutions.

In our own experience, we are enjoying strong relationships with a rapidly-growing number of clinical partners who are keen to collaborate and get to grips with products to improve the health service.

The institution must strike a careful balance, recognising the need for innovative solutions to ease cost-pressures while building a strong case for further government funding

We are partnering with teams eager to embrace innovation, generating clinical and health economic data which can be shared across the NHS and internationally.

The results from a study at the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, to determine the reduction of pre-operative oedema in ankle fracture patients showed a two-day improvement in readiness for theatre, and average cost savings of £569 per patient. These results could not have been achieved without close partnership with lead clinicians.

The UK med-tech industry could hold the key to solving many of the critical issues the NHS faces, and these solutions depend on solid relationships between clinicians and industry leaders.

A clinician-first approach is key – and there is clear evidence to indicate clinicians want to be at the forefront of implementing game-changing innovations.

As the NHS looks towards the next 70 years and embarks upon its 10-year strategy, these relationships could be fundamental in supporting the future of our much-loved health service.

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