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Industry conference addresses joint working

ABPI conference finds that joint working offers a solution to meeting the challenges of both the industry and the NHS

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) conference finds that joint working offers a solution to meeting the challenges of both the industry and the NHS.

The UK pharma industry can only face its challenges with the help of the NHS. This is according to Dr Richard Barker, director general of the ABPI, who welcomed guests to the body's annual conference at the Brewery in London on April 27. 

Dr Barker introduced a day of speakers from industry, the NHS and the third sector who addressed the theme of "working together to make a difference". Chief executive North West SHA, Mike Farrar provided an NHS perspective, stating that the business case for joint working has never been more compelling, for both patient and the tax payer. He said, however, that while senior management were very supportive of collaboration with industry for mutual benefit and better patient outcomes, there was still a need to align processes so that this translated to implementation on the ground.

"The QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) challenge is in our daily language, and the pharmaceutical industry can help us meet this challenge," said Mr Farrar. "However, making this a reality requires training and the promotion of positive examples." Mr Farrar urged the sector to be confident and optimistic. "We need to do what we are doing faster and put a path in front of new ministers to ensure we get the policies we need to support us," he said.

The general consensus among speakers at the conference was that partnerships only work if interests coincide. Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, who presented the patient perspective, commented that there was a difference between partnership and sponsorship, and urged both industry and the NHS to understand this difference. She also said that there should be a clear understanding of what a 'patient-centric approach' really means. "Everyone wants to put the patient first, however being truly 'patient-centric' is about ensuring the outcome is inline with what the patient actually wants," she said.

Other barriers to joint working highlighted by speakers include the complexity of structure and bureaucracy of both the NHS and pharmaceutical companies. It was acknowledged that true partnership begins on a local PCT level and grows out of trusted relationships between individuals. Mistrust still forms a significant barrier to partnership and speakers called for good governance and transparency at all times to address this challenge. 

"Joint working is about market development and not contingent upon placement of products on the formulary," said Patrick Hopkinson, director – portfolio and partnership marketing at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). All speakers acknowledged, however, that trust is a two-way street and not just something that the industry needs to earn from the NHS.

Speakers also urged delegates to remember that real partnership requires long-term commitment and brings with it responsibility. Prof Ken Paterson, chairman of the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) presented a positive example of collaboration between his body and industry when formulating and implementing processes for drug approvals in Scotland. He stressed, however, that companies should be aware of the difference between a stakeholder relationship and a partnership. "Stakeholders are involved on an as-and-when basis and carry no responsibility, whereas partners have full and equal responsibility, at all times," he said.

Despite these challenges, all agreed that broad-based strategic collaborations offer a solution to achieving the shared agendas of the NHS and industry and for realising QIPP.

A full report will be printed in the May issue of Pharmaceutical Marketing.

28th April 2010

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