NHS failing to adopt innovations aimed at improving patients’ lives

Medical Technology Group report reveals adoption of innovation is 'patchy and inconsistent' across the NHS

Adoption of high-impact innovations aimed at improving millions of patients’ lives is patchy and inconsistent across the NHS in England, a new report from the Medical Technology Group has revealed.

With tight budgets and the need to make major efficiency improvements, it has never been more important for the NHS to use technology to improve patient care

Six recommendations by NHS Improvement & Efficiency, Innovation and Service Improvement in December 2011 - including those relating to improving access to wheelchairs for disabled children and reducing face-to-face meetings - are not being adopted across the board, with some regions of the country drastically underperforming, the report found.

The NHS’s Innovation, Health & Wealth report identified six areas where patient care could be improved through high-impact innovations:

  • 3MillionLives: the use of telehealth and remote monitoring was designed to improve the lives of three million people in five years by reducing emergency hospital admissions and hospital bed days. The MTG report found that just 45% of regions have agreed new models for technology provision with providers. Take-up across regions varied from 15% in the Eastern region to 71% in the East Midlands
  • Oesophageal Doppler Monitoring: minimally-invasive technology to assess the fluid status of patients and ensure they are safe. ODM combats hypovolaemia - a reduction in circulating blood volume that almost all patients in surgery or A&E develop. Hypovolaemia can cause medical complications including peripheral and major organ failure, which if not dealt with quickly can lead to severe compromise or even death. The MTG found that just 40% of Clinical Commission Groups (CCGs) were working with local providers on intra-operative fluid management (IOFM) targets. The numbers ranged from 16% in London to 67% in the South West
  • Child in a chair in a day: NHS waiting times for wheelchairs for disabled children have often been 200 days or more. The promised ‘Child in a chair in a day’ programme aimed to get disabled children into an appropriate wheelchair within a day, working with the charity Whizz-Kidz. However, the data reveals poor implementation on every measure. Only 4% of CCGs that responded had agreed payments relating to the programme. They were all in the West Midlands, London or the South East. Only 12% of trusts had developed an action plan around the delivery of mobility services for children. On average the wait for a wheelchair was 50 days.
  • International and Commercial Activity: the goal was to work with UK Trade and Investment to increase national and international healthcare activity. The MTG report found that, although two thirds of trusts has a strategy in place to make use of the intellectual property they developed, only 6% of CCGs had agreed payments relating to international and commercial activity. These were concentrated in just three regions: the South East, South West and North West.

  • Digital by default: one of the goals of the Innovation, Health & Wealth report was to reduce unnecessary face to face meetings, for example through the use of email, meaning less inconvenience for patients and better use of NHS resources. Every 1% reduction in face to face contact saves £200m. Although CCGs and trusts are working very well together, there is vast regional variation. No CCGs in the Eastern region reported payments for Digital by default, compared with 36% in the South West region
  • Support for carers of people with dementia: the Innovation Health & Wealth report calls on the NHS to commission dementia services in line with guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Social Care Institute for Excellence. 94% of CCGs are working with local providers to ensure carers receive relevant information where there is diagnosis of dementia. However, more than half of CCGs had failed to formulate Commissioning for quality and innovation (CQUIN) criteria for this area, suggesting room for improvement

Back in 2011, the NHS rightly identified the ways technology could help patients and save money. Now it needs to do much better to take its own ideas forward

Commenting on the report, Barbara Harpham, chairman of the Medical Technology Group, said: “With tight budgets and the need to make major efficiency improvements, it has never been more important for the NHS to use technology to improve patient care. It is tragic that we have not seen take-up of simple measures to stop unnecessary A&E admissions, or to speed up children getting wheelchairs they need.

“Back in 2011, the NHS rightly identified the ways technology could help patients and save money. Now it needs to do much better to take its own ideas forward.”

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