Medical Technology Group Warns Against ‘Slow-Tech’ NHS

25.11.2009: Today the Medical Technology Group, backed by leading politicians, warned that the UK is falling behind other European countries in uptake of medical technologies.
Launching a 12 point Action Plan, “Medical Technology – Can We Afford To Miss Out?”, the Group warned that any cuts to NHS technology budgets would cost more in the long-run and risked damaging the quality of life of thousands of patients with diabetes, heart disease and other long-term conditions.
MTG Chairman, Director of Heart Research UK Barbara Harpham said,
“Like all public services the NHS is under pressure to cut costs, but slashing budgets is counterproductive as modern technologies help thousands of people with long-term conditions stay in work or education and out of hospital.”
“We already lag behind much of Europe, with problems like hospitals denying patients NICE-approved technologies because they lack the facilities or staff to support their use. With an ageing population and increasing demands on health services we cannot afford a ‘slow-tech’ NHS.”
The Action Plan highlights examples of slow uptake of technologies including:
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICDs), which can lead to a 50% reduction in cardiac deaths, were implanted in Germany at over three times the UK rate last year, despite being recommended by NICE.
Less than 4% of patients with Type One diabetes have access to an insulin pump in the UK, compared with 35% in the US, despite these being approved by NICE.
It makes 12 policy recommendations to improve uptake of medical technologies, including:
Making the right of patients to technologies recommended by NICE legally enforceable.
Giving patients more information about which providers make use of the latest technologies, so patients can make a more informed choice of provider (through NHS Choices and Choose and Book).
Conservative Shadow Health Minister Stephen O’Brien MP welcomed the Group’s report saying,
“We should be proud of Britain’s strength in medical technology, SMEs are the engine-room of our economy generating employment and wealth for individuals and for the country as a whole.”
“I want to build a health service where procurement delivers the best possible patient and financial outcomes, rather than focusing on short term targets, and where specialist equipment is not treated as just a commodity, but as a value for money use of public money.”
Norman Lamb MP, the Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, commented:
“These recommendations focus on key issues which the NHS and the Government must address. They provide a very welcome contribution to the debate.”
“Adoption of medical technologies is often both cost effective and in the patient’s interest. Up until now, the NHS has been slow to recognise the value of technology. This has to change if we are to maximise the effective use of resources for the benefit of patients.”
Tina Amiss, who has cardiomyopathy, and whose live has been saved by her ICD on 3 separate occasions said,
“This powerful but diminutive piece of technology has enabled me to get back to a relatively normal life and has helped stop my family living in constant fear of another cardiac arrest”
“The ICD is life saving and reduces both the cost and emotional trauma of life threatening cardiomyopathies – it should be available to all who need it.”
Thomas Double is 12 and has Type 1 diabetes. He uses an insulin pump that is recommended by NICE to manage his condition, after his mother battled for over two years to get agreement from her PCT to fund the therapy:
“Going onto a pump was definitely the right thing to do. Now, instead of having a lot of injections I just have to press a few buttons. It’s easier to spend time with my friends without constantly feeling different and worrying that I won’t be able to do the same things as them.”

The full report can be downloaded Medical Technology Group report here

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