Authored article

Making sure patients and the NHS benefit from medical innovation

Lord Prior welcomes new ambitions to speed up patient access to innovative new treatments.

The UK has a proud history of leading the way in medical innovation: from the smallpox vaccine to the first blood transfusion we have a strong track record of scientific ‘firsts’. The development of innovative technologies is continuing at pace and revolutionising health systems throughout the world. We want patients, the NHS and the UK life sciences sector to benefit from this revolution, but more often than not the path from a research idea to a new product that is used by patients can be long and difficult to navigate.

That is why in 2014, the then Minister for Life Sciences George Freeman launched the Accelerated Access Review (AAR), independently chaired by Sir Hugh Taylor. The AAR was asked to make recommendations on how to accelerate access for NHS patients to innovative medicines, medical technologies, diagnostics and digital products and to make the UK the best place in the world to design, develop and deploy these innovations.

We welcome Sir Hugh’s final report and are grateful to him and Sir John Bell, the review’s external champions and the External Advisory Group for the thorough and insightful approach they have brought to it. We are also grateful for the contributions of the many individuals and organisations from industry, the NHS, patient groups, academia and clinicians.

Sir Hugh’s report significantly deepens our understanding of the barriers and challenges to meeting our ambition and leaves us in a strong position to make the right decisions about how the system can be adapted to meet the challenges of the future. It provides a blueprint for patients, clinicians, innovators, government and the NHS to take coordinated action. It is not a complete solution on its own but it sets out the important practical steps that can be taken to support a systems-based approach to the whole life sciences ecosystem, improving uptake of innovations and to transform the NHS.

We already have a strong platform with our world-leading science and the only fully integrated health system. As the government develops its industrial strategy following the vote to leave the EU, the report also highlights the opportunities to attract inward investment, grow its thriving life sciences industry and secure its position as a global leader in medical innovation. We will consider the recommendations in the review and provide a fuller response in due course.

The financial pressures on the NHS means that it is more important than ever to ensure patients can access the most cost-effective new innovations in a way that is affordable and sustainable. In implementing the report we will consider affordability and focus on ensuring that the AAR is part of the solution to that efficiency challenge, rather than adding to it.

The government remains strongly committed to the life sciences and to building a long-term partnership with industry. It is determined to help the UK become the best place in the world to produce new drugs and products that can transform the health of patients, where the research, development, regulatory, commercialisation and investment infrastructure enable innovation to flourish and thrive while improving patients’ lives.