News story

Getting patients quicker access to innovative healthcare

New recommendations set out how patients could get quicker access to innovative new diagnostic tools, treatments, and medical technologies.

Test tubes and bottles from a lab

The Accelerated Access Review: final report, commissioned by the government and led by an independent chair, was published today (24 October). The review aims to make the UK a world-leader in healthcare innovation, with an NHS that embraces the new drugs and technologies that patients need and supports work with local areas to develop solutions to their specific healthcare needs.

The report says streamlined processes could bring forward patient access to drugs by up to 4 years and patients will benefit from quicker access to medical technologies too. The report will help the NHS to provide the best care to patients, use funds more effectively, and create the conditions to help the life sciences industry continue to thrive.

Chair of the Accelerated Access Review, Sir Hugh Taylor, said:

This ambitious plan will prepare the health system for an exciting era in medical innovation.

We’ve listened to the views of the NHS, patients, clinicians, the life sciences industries and academia – and it is clear we need to act now to make the most of the tidal wave of new drugs and technologies that are being developed.

The review, developed in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, recommends the creation of a new accelerated access partnership to speed up and simplify the process for getting the most promising new treatments and diagnostics safely from pre-clinical development to patients. Patients expect the NHS to provide life-changing innovations as soon as they become available – but evidence has shown that the UK sometimes lags behind other countries.

The review says that accessing innovation in the NHS has become increasingly challenging. This creates frustration for clinicians and patients who often have to wait for life-saving treatments, and for innovators who must navigate multiple processes before their products can be used.

Through the new partnership, innovators would be able to access joined-up help for clinical development, regulation, and assessment of cost effectiveness. It is recommended that the partnership includes NHS England, NHS Improvement, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Patient access to drugs could be brought forward by up to 4 years if a scientific opinion from the early access to medicines scheme is used (saving 12 to 18 months) and there is no delay during the technology appraisal (which can take up to 2 years) or during the process for NHS commissioning and adoption (which can take 2 years or more).

The review recommends a simpler process for digital technologies which are often developed by smaller companies, such as healthcare apps for managing long-term conditions.

The review also suggests that a new strategic commercial unit should be created within NHS England to enter into commercial dialogue to create flexible arrangements with innovators who are working on transformative new products. The unit would aim for “win-win” scenarios where innovators benefit through earlier access to the NHS market and increased sales. In return innovators would offer better value to the NHS and patients.

Health Minister Lord Prior said:

This government has a strong commitment to the life sciences and to building a long-term partnership with the life sciences industry. We are determined to make the UK the best place in the world to develop new drugs and other products that can transform the health of patients.

The report provides us with a strong basis to make the right decisions about how the health system can be adapted to meet the challenges of the future, attract inward investment, grow the thriving life science industry and use innovation to improve patient outcomes and tackle the financial pressures on the NHS.

Read Lord Prior’s full statement on the Accelerated Access Review.

Patients are central to the review. Under the recommendations of the review, patients are offered a greater say in determining what innovations are important to them, so that real experiences of conditions such as diabetes or cancer can be used to shape priorities for new drugs, techniques and treatments.

The government will now consider the proposals and respond more fully in due course, mindful of the need to ensure affordability.

Published 24 October 2016