Insights: Accelerated Access

UK as a global destination for life sciences and medtech

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Jonathan Burr Photo

On Tuesday I attended the Accelerated Access Review event at Guy’s Hospital organised by the Office for Life Sciences, Department for Health, and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and supported by the Welcome Trust.

In one of his last official acts before the General Election campaign George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, introduced the Chair of the review, Sir Hugh Taylor, and the Head of the External Advisory Group, Professor Sir John Bell.

George Freeman explained that the idea of Accelerated Access was not only to stimulate faster innovation in the NHS but also to turn the UK into a ‘lit runway’ that would attract global investment into life sciences, medical devices and digital health.  This would mean looking in detail at the processes for regulation or in my words “Are we allowed to sell this?” (which is mostly about NICE) and commissioning or “Will the NHS buy this?” (which is mostly about persuading CCG’s and providers).  Changes to regulation would necessitate discussion and agreement with Europe.

These twin issues of regulation and commissioning were picked up later in detail in workshops led by Monitor Deloitte, the King’s Fund and CASMI.  The current ‘as is’ pathways for both pharmaceuticals and medtech (medical devices and diagnostics) were put up in huge wall charts.  We discussed in groups whether they were gave a good picture of the ‘as is’ and how they might be improved.

'As Is' regulatory and commissioning process for Medtech
‘As Is’ Regulatory and Commissioning process for Medtech

I focused on medtech.  The one thing that stuck me was that, by definition, all of those consumer health, well-being and fitness apps that are not officially ‘medical devices’ were out of scope.  Consumer pressure is very likely to mess up the well ordered landscape that we were discussing.  A bit like the way that satellite navigation  devices have undermined carefully placed direction signs in cities.

This thought was backed up in a presentation given by RAND Europe.  They gave some interesting examples of how the FDA had been able to rapidly accelerate the adoption process for HIV drugs in the 1990’s and Ebola last year.  Public pressure clearly can make a difference which is potentially good news for digital health.