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24.10.16

Cut NHS access time to innovative treatments by four years, review says

The time for new drugs and other treatments to be approved by the NHS could be cut by four years, the final Accelerated Access Review has said.

The review said the time to get innovations through the NHS approval and adoption process could be cut from 12 years to 8.

Recommendations for streamlining the process included using scientific opinion from the early access to medicines scheme, saving 12 to 18 months, and cutting delays at the NICE appraisal stage and the NHS commissioning and adoption stage, both of which can take two years.

Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of the review, 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 said the Accelerated Access Partnership should be set up immediately so that the collective leadership can be effective in 2016-17, and work closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The partnership would then launch an Accelerated Access Pathway for strategically important interventions.

Furthermore, the review recommended creating a strategic commercial unit within NHS England to seek flexible arrangements with innovators developing products.

The unit would aim for ‘win-win’ scenarios where innovators would receive early access to the NHS market in exchange for offering better value for money.

The review also recommended a simpler process for digital technologies such as apps to manage long-term health conditions. The Department of Health said it would now consider the findings of the review.

Health minister Lord Prior said: “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.”

Under a separate plan from NICE and NHS England, there could be more cost-effectiveness limitations on approving new treatments.

Dr Liz Mear, chair of the Academic Health Science Network, said: “The review is fundamental in joining up all the great work that’s happening in health and care to ensure that patients across the country have faster access to the latest treatments and technologies.” 

Hilary Newiss, chair of National Voices and patient champion for the review, said the vast potential of innovative new treatments and technologies will only be realised through a strong focus on the needs of patients and citizens.

“Patients, service users and their carers must be involved at every stage of research; from priority setting; to research design; to decisions about availability; right through to individual choice in the use of new treatments,” she said.

“We welcome the Accelerated Access Review’s clear recommendation that patients should be involved in horizon scanning and prioritisation, and that engagement should continue along the whole innovation pathway.

“Innovation in drugs, diagnostics and digital technologies is an important factor in delivering person-centred care, and we are pleased to be so engaged in this important review.”

The most recent edition of NHE featured an article by Newiss setting out National Voices’ six principles for engaging people and communities in health and care innovation.

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