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Mistrust of pharma still blocking NHS collaborations

Greater Manchester is leader in breaking down barriers


What’s stopping pharma and the NHS working together more often, and in more parts of the UK?

A new report from industry association the ABPI and the NHS Confederation identifies some of the persistent barriers to greater collaboration, with practical issues such as resources a big an issue as trust.

The report ‘Working with the NHS’, includes recommendations on how to foster successful partnerships with the common goal of improving patient care, as well as existing case studies.

The benefits of well-managed and well-targeted joint working projects to patients and the NHS – and pharma - are widely accepted on both sides, but these remain relatively few and far between, and frequently do not get scaled up or adopted by the health service in other regions.

One area of great but still largely untapped potential is in joint working based on NHS data. As one of the world’s biggest single payer systems, the UK health service could be a leader in exploiting data analytics for research and improving patient care. The 100,000 Genomes Project, and the UK Biobank are two leading examples of this, which both sides want to see adopted and replicated in other projects.

The report identifies ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ barriers to ongoing collaboration: ‘hard’ barriers include a lack of resources to get a joint-working project off the ground, a lack of incentivisation and clarity about the goals of such partnerships.  The big ‘soft’ issues, meanwhile, are trust and the culture of reluctance surrounding cross-sector work, particularly within the NHS.

One persistent source of mistrust of pharma in the NHS is because of its profit motive. There are of course plenty of examples where pharma and the NHS have clashed over costs – perhaps most notably the legal battle over Avastin being used in place of licensed blindness treatments from Novartis and Bayer.

Despite these sorts of clashes, NHS leaders  say industry collaboration is now not merely desirable, but essential.


Niall Dickson

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation said: “The future lies in collaboration – without it, neither the NHS nor industry will fulfil their potential. As this report shows, there are many examples of good practice that demonstrate that each can benefit from using the skills and experience of the other, and more importantly, patients benefit.

“But the message here is that we can do more and do it at scale. Collaboration with indus-try and research is mission critical, and there remains a danger that it is seen as a ‘nice to have’, rather than a ‘must do.’"

Mike Thompson, chief executive of the ABPI said: “We’ve been very honest in this report about the barriers industry and the NHS have come up against when trying to work together.

“We are investing resource to address these challenges because the benefits of partnership are so compelling – a ‘triple win’ of improved patient outcomes, more efficient use of NHS resources and evidence of impact for industry."

Greater Manchester and its devolved and combined health and social care budget is not only at the forefront of creating new integrated care services, it is also a leader in working with industry. It signed a memorandum of understanding with the ABPI and other industry associations in February 2017. Since then, it has seen more than a dozen new cross-sector partnerships launched to address major health challenges like COPD, and say it’s keen to see similar levels of joint working elsewhere in the country.

Examples of successful joint initiatives include one between AstraZeneca and Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust to provide patients who had suffered a heart attack with a comprehensive review of their medications. As a result, outpatient cardiology clinics were less busy and post-discharge waiting times fell by over 50%.

Among its recommendations, the report says trust can be built by successful project leaders sharing their outcomes with pride with the rest of the NHS and wider public, and not "kept under the radar" as often happens currently.

Read the full report here:

A new ambition for cross-sector collaboration with the life sciences industry to support NHS sustainability and transformation

Article by
Lucy Parsons

21st June 2019

From: Healthcare



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