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Week-in-Review Editorial

Pharma must understand and engage with new NHS stakeholder networks fully

While the UK's Prime Minister Gordon Brown was putting the NHS firmly at the centre of the Labour Party conference, the pharmaceutical industry was brushing up on its knowledge of current changes in the NHS in the City of London.

The conference, entitled Responding to NHS Change, was a two-day meeting, covering topics ranging from How to Build Healthy Partnerships within the NHS to The Implications of Practice Based Commissioning (PBC).

The speakers presented changes within the NHS that will force Pharma to rethink how markets and sells its products. Building mutual trust, supporting groups who want to work together, striving to change attitudes and vastly improving communication seemed to be the most important vehicles for change mentioned at the meeting.

The overwhelming message was that everyone in a healthcare company, from board to the sales force, must understand who they were dealing with, or business would suffer. This meant understanding how the changes are operating nationally, but more importantly how different PCTs have different local health needs. It is no longer a case of 'one size fits all'.

Trust issues continue to block successful relationship building between Pharma and the NHS, while other hurdles to overcome were those preventing complete transparency between the two groups. Communication channels needed to be open and clear to gain long-term trust. Only then can the industry improve its reputation and enhance relationships.

The main conclusion drawn from the meeting was that Pharma was generally reluctant to break with the established sales model, as it has served the industry well. Innovative ideas have been piloted, but scaling them up has proved a major challenge. The existing organisations within the industry are overly complex and are under constant pressure to deliver financially only. There are, as yet, no real trailblazers.

The future state of the NHS is generally predictable. Doctors are being told what to prescribe, there are different criteria for selecting treatments, patients are taking control of their healthcare and, as a result, healthcare provision is moving closer to the patient in a home care setting, especially with regards to new cancer treatments, such as Roche's Xeloda.

In short, Pharma must redefine what sales and marketing actually is within the operational parameters of the company.

PMLive produces comprehensive guides to the ongoing changes in the NHS.

26th September 2007

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