Collaboration between the NHS and industry was identified in the 2017 Life sciences: industrial strategy report as a powerful tool to support innovation. The role of the NHS both as a monopoly purchaser and a testbed for novel products means that collaboration with innovators can be a powerful driver of progress. Now UK Government has announced an expanded role for NHS-industry collaboration in promoting innovations that will bring major benefits rapidly to NHS patients.
The Accelerated Access Review and its evolution into the Accelerated Access Collaborative
The Accelerated Access Review was set up in 2014 to see how access to innovative drugs, devices, diagnostics and digital products to NHS patients could be improved. A 2016 report on this initial project called for sustained focus and engagement to reap the full benefits of this collaborative approach. Government renewed its commitment to working collaboratively in its 2017 Life Sciences Sector Deal. This set out plans to build on the AAR with a new Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), and £86 million of public funds to support innovators and the NHS in bringing forward innovative technologies.
An expanded role for the AAC
The Accelerated Access Collaborative was established in 2018 to provide a streamlined process through clinical development and regulatory approval for selected medicines, devices, diagnostic tools and digital services. Twelve diverse products have already been identified for rapid uptake. These range from a novel treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis to diagnostic tests to detect pre-eclampsia and a novel system for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The programme is now being expanded become the main point of entry to the NHS for health innovations. This will include:
- identifying the best new innovations
- providing a single point of support for innovators whether within or outside the NHS
- signalling the needs of clinicians and patients to innovators
- establishing a testing infrastructure to generate evidence of effectiveness
- directing funding to areas of greatest impact
- supporting rapid take-up of proven innovations.
The remit of the AAC will be expanded under the chairmanship of Professor Lord Darzi so that it becomes the umbrella body across the UK health innovation eco-system. The new body will provide more joined-up support for innovators and a strategic approach to nurturing innovation. Dr Sam Roberts will take on the leadership of this project, alongside her current role as Director of Innovation and Life Sciences at NHS England and NHS Improvement. Voices representing industry on the AAC board will include the ABPI and the BioIndustry Association.
This new programme, with its focused support and access to clinical evaluation within the NHS, offers a real opportunity to pharmaceutical and health technology innovators to fast-track promising products and services.