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HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 6 November 2017

Government unveils plans to accelerate access to medicine

Pharma Times, Selina McKee, 3 November 2017

 

Pharma Times reports on the announcement of plans for a new Accelerated Access Pathway, which would allow for selected medical technologies and treatments to begin a process which could make them available up to four years earlier than the norm. In return, life sciences firms will be expected to deliver additional value for the taxpayer, with a new Strategic Commercial Unit being created within NHS England to help negotiate cost effective deals with innovators. Health Minister, Lord O’Shaughnessy stated: “I want the UK to be the best place in the world to develop new drugs and medical technology – but despite the innovation happening here, our uptake in the NHS can be too slow”.

 

The full response to the Review is available to read here.

 

The doctor will see you now: NHS starts smartphone consultations

The Times, Chris Smyth, 6 November 2017

 

The Times reports on the NHS launching smartphone consultations enabling patients to consult family doctors around the clock. The “GP at hand” scheme involves a deal between an ordinary GP surgery and a digital GP care provider, Babylon. After a pilot scheme involving 3,000 patients, the service is opening to any NHS patient in London who wishes to register. If a patient needs a face-to-face appointment, they must travel to clinics in commuter hubs. The virtual practice has set no limit on how many patients it will accept, saying that this will be guided by how many it can safely treat.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

 

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Full Coverage

Government unveils plans to accelerate access to medicine

Pharma Times, Selina McKee, 3 November 2017

 

The government has finally published its long-awaited response to the Accelerated Access Review, with plans for a new Accelerated Access Pathway that will open a new channel providing patients with faster access to the most innovative medicines and technologies.

 

From April next year the​ new Pathway will allow for selected medical technologies and treatments to begin a process which could make them available up to four years earlier than the norm.

 

The aim is to slash the time it takes for medicines with the greatest potential impact to complete the necessary evaluation and financial approvals for NHS purchasing.

 

Sir Andrew Witty, former chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, will lead a group called the Accelerated Access Collaborative, which will govern which products are given access to the Pathway, with advice from patients, clinicians and industry.

 

In return, life sciences firms will be expected to deliver additional value for the taxpayer, with a new Strategic Commercial Unit being created within NHS England to help negotiate cost effective deals with innovators, the Department of Health stressed.

 

“I want the UK to be the best place in the world to develop new drugs and medical technology – but despite the innovation happening here, our uptake in the NHS can be too slow,” said Health Minister, Lord O’Shaughnessy.

 

The new measures “will not only benefit patients by improving how quickly and easily we can get innovative products from the lab to the bedside, but will guarantee future collaboration between the life sciences sector and the NHS post-Brexit – benefiting the British economy and creating jobs.”

 

“It is hugely frustrating for researchers, doctors and most of all for patients when innovative new cancer treatments are not made available on the NHS until years after the rest of the world, especially when they have only been made possible by UK science,” noted Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

 

“We now have the opportunity to speed up licensing and appraisal for the most promising treatments. Looking ahead, to do even better we also need changes to the way appraisals are made to favour the most innovative drugs ahead of the ‘me toos’, and crucially we need action to bring down the sky-high prices of many new medicines.”​​​

 

Also on the table is an £86 million funding package to help innovators of all sizes to access the NHS market, and help ensure that these products get to the patients that need them.

 

This includes: more support for small and medium-sized enterprises to help them build a stronger evidence base for their products, with £35 million over four years to help SMEs with digital products, and a £6 million scheme to support medtech, diagnostics and pharmaceutical products; £6 million to support clinicians to use new treatments and technologies in everyday practice; and £39 million to encourage grassroots adoption and uptake of new medical technologies, driven by 15 Academic Health Science Networks which are responsible for identifying high potential products, supporting their adoption regionally and sharing lessons across the wider NHS.

 

Richard Torbett, executive director of Commercial Policy at the ABPI, said the government’s commitment to speeding up access to the most innovative medicines and treatments “is very much welcome”.

 

“This should benefit thousands of NHS patients as well as delivering significant long-term savings for the health service if appropriate investment in these transformative therapies is made available.

 

“We are confident that the promise of making ground-breaking, cost-effective healthcare available for everyone, as quickly as possible, can be delivered through partnership with our industry, Government and the NHS.”

 

Simon Bedson, Vertex Pharmaceuticals senior vice president and general manager, International Commercial Operations, also welcomed the announcement, which he said “promises faster access to medicines with the greatest potential to change lives.”

 

“We want to see this put into action for people in the UK who have cystic fibrosis,” he added, noting that “in a country that has one of the highest incidences of cystic fibrosis in the world, we find ourselves in a system where people have been waiting to have access to Orkambi for over two years.

 

“Through this new approach we want to work with the Government so we continue to recognise the need and value of investing in innovation.”

 

It has taken the government over a year to respond to the Review, which was published in October 2016.

 

The report was commissioned by the government in 2014, in the hope of making the UK “the fastest place in the world for the design, development and widespread adoption of medical innovations and stimulate new investment, jobs and economic growth to support the NHS”.

 

The doctor will see you now: NHS starts smartphone consultations

The Times, Chris Smyth, 6 November 2017

 

Millions of NHS patients will be offered the chance to consult family doctors around the clock by smartphone as the first “virtual GP” goes live.

 

Video consultations are promised within two hours by doctors who say that they are finally bringing the health service into the digital age. However, the project has raised fears among senior GPs that it will create a two-tier NHS, disrupting personal relationships and siphoning off fit, young patients, leaving traditional practices to deal with the frail, elderly and mentally ill.

 

However, NHS bosses have signed off the scheme, saying that “one size does not fit all” for GP care.

 

Mobasher Butt, a partner in the “GP at Hand” service, said: “We do everything from grocery shopping to our banking online yet when it comes to our health, it can still take weeks to see a doctor and often means taking time off work. With the NHS making use of this technology, we can put patients in front of a GP within minutes on their phone.”

 

The scheme involves a deal between an ordinary NHS surgery in Fulham, west London, and Babylon, a technology company that offers a smartphone GP consultation service to private patients.

 

Like any other NHS GP practice, GP at Hand is paid a flat rate for every patient who is registered with it, but uses the money to sub-contract to Babylon, saying that it will not cost the health service “a penny more” than traditional surgeries.

 

“I think this is the beginning of the end for the old-fashioned way we use healthcare,” Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon, said. “It’s like going from a Nokia to an iPhone. Maybe next year 10 per cent of people will have one and in five years it will be everybody.” He argued that using a symptom-checking artificial intelligence chatbot and more efficient systems could free GPs from paperwork, allowing them to see patients more quickly. “I think normal NHS GPs will see this works and convert to doing things this way,” he said.

 

After a pilot scheme involving 3,000 patients, the service is opening to any NHS patient in London who wishes to register. If a patient needs a face-to-face appointment, they must travel to clinics in commuter hubs. The virtual practice has set no limit on how many patients it will accept, saying that this will be guided by how many it can safely treat.

 

Matt Noble, another of the GP partners, said that the promise of seeing an NHS doctor within two hours at any time would not lead to the service being overwhelmed by minor ailments. “People do value the fact that they can see a GP when they want to, but it doesn’t lead to a massive increase in demand. What it does do is ensure people are seen much quicker,” he said.

 

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said that despite benefits for commuters it could make family doctor shortages worse by “luring GPs away” from surgeries.

 

She said: “We are really worried that schemes like this are creating a twin-track approach to NHS general practice and that patients are being ‘cherry-picked’, which could actually increase the pressures on traditional GPs.”

 

The service accepts that it is not necessarily suitable for people with dementia, mental health conditions or who are pregnant, but Professor Stokes-Lampard said that these were “the essence of general practice”.

 

NHS England said: “GP practices are right to carefully test technologies that can improve free NHS services for patients while also freeing staff time.”

 

Q&A

 

Don’t smartphone GPs already exist?

Yes, but this is about letting patients make it their main NHS GP.

 

How can this service offer appointments so quickly?

Babylon says that 40 per cent of queries through the app are dealt with by an AI symptom checker.

 

Surely some consultations need to be face-to-face?

The service estimates that only about a fifth of problems need a doctor physically present.

 

How can the NHS afford to do this?

GPs are paid an average of £151 a year for each registered patient but Babylon charges private patients £50 a year.

 

Can I get this service without switching GPs?

No but Babylon is hoping that demand for it will force other GP practices to strike similar deals.

 

What about the elderly?

GP at Hand concedes that its service will not be suitable for some patients.

 

Behind the story

This is the second time Ali Parsa has tried to shake up the National Health Service (Chris Smyth writes). He sometimes struggles to hide his frustration with inertia in the NHS and makes no secret of his view that within a few years computers will perform better than doctors at making diagnoses.

 

Mr Parsa is also undaunted by the experience of Circle Health, the company he founded after leaving finance. Billed as the John Lewis of health because it was half-owned by its staff, Circle became the first private company to take over management of an NHS hospital, Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire.

 

However, despite positive initial reviews, Mr Parsa was ousted amid disappointing financial results. The hospital was then slated by inspectors before Circle abandoned the contract, saying it was no longer financially viable. Mr Parsa insists that this time it will be different.

HDA UK Media And Political Bulletin – 6 November 2017

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