Innovation and the Health Bill

The success of the North West Exemplar Programme was hailed last week for the NHS being among the best in Europe for Pharmaceutical research. Its aim has been to create ‘new capacity and capability for research in the UK’. This NIHR programme consists of 20 pharmaceutical research studies and has achieved a median set up time of just 56 days with 18 on course to meet their patient recruitment targets.

Traditionally the NHS has been perceived as an unconducive arena for cutting edge research and a barrier to uptake of new innovations. These hurdles comes in many forms in an organisation so large, from decision-making consistency, the form of organisational structures to technological deficits (see Cooksey Report (2006) or York Economics Health Consortium (2009)).

We have heard that this Government wants a refocus on a modern, innovative NHS with better access to new medicines. Andrew Lansley in the first reading of the Health Bill spoke about the empowerment of health professionals to apply innovation for the best interests of their patients and more quickly.

However it should be noted that the NHS itself has made a similar vow,  the NHS Constitution (2009) states its “commitment to innovation and to the promotion and conduct of research to improve the current and future health and care of the population.”

Questions remain about how change will be affected in the current climate? And how can access to innovation be equitable and in line with the rest of the NHS Constitution?

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