“We have the opportunity to lead the world in the use of data and technology to prevent illness, not just treat it; to diagnose conditions before symptoms occur, and to deliver personalised treatment informed not just by general understanding of disease but by your own data including your genetic make-up”. Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister (18 June, 2018)
After months of speculation, the Prime Minister finally unveiled her long-awaited birthday present for the NHS yesterday.
While the promise of additional funding is always welcome, many questions remain unanswered, including: how will the increase be funded? How will the money be spent? Will the money be enough?
The answers to these questions will continue to be debated over the coming weeks (and months), but the announcement at least provides us with a valuable opportunity to take stock of the current situation facing the NHS and to take steps to ensure its sustainability for a further 70 years and beyond.
Looking to the future
Whenever a milestone is reached (such as a 70th birthday), it is always tempting to just look back and focus on what has been achieved. There is certainly value in doing this, but arguably it is more valuable to highlight areas where better outcomes could be achieved and set out a path to achieve future success.
Therefore, the forward-looking tone of the Prime Minister’s speech, with its emphasis on being a world leader, on technology and innovation, and on the prevention, not just treatment, of ill health, was reassuring.
I welcome the creation of a ten year plan for the NHS as a positive step that we hope will encourage some longer-term planning. However if the NHS is going to deliver on the PM’s ambitions, it will take more than an increase in funding. What we need, is recognition that in vitro diagnostics (IVDs) are at the heart of the healthcare system.
The importance of IVDs in achieving success
IVDs are used not only to diagnose but to rule out causes of ill health and monitor, screen and assess people for any health problems they might have. When used effectively, diagnostics can be used to help reduce hospital stays, support patients to look after their own health and deliver personalised treatment.
However, IVDs have often faced a ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to the adoption and diffusion of diagnostics across the NHS for a number of reasons.
This week, BIVDA in conjunction with Innovate UK and Aquarius Population Health, launched a report which identified how the NHS could save over £6.9 billion in five years through quick adoption of new diagnostic tests.
Patients would benefit from three new tests – for heart attack, pre-eclampsia and inflammatory bowel disease – by reducing unnecessary procedures and medication while delivering significant NHS savings.
However these outcomes can only be achieved if the tests are widely adopted.
There is no ‘silver bullet’ that will enable the NHS to maintain universal access to high quality NHS services, when demand and costs continue to rise. Funding increases are one part of the solution but so are IVDs.
As Chief Executive of BIVDA, I will be working to ensure that IVDs are a key focus during discussions on the future and funding of the NHS. By working collaboratively, we can help make the NHS’s birthday money stretch that bit further.
Doris-Ann Williams MBE, Chief Executive, BIVDA
Our new report, “Three simple tests could save the NHS at least £6.9 billion”, in conjunction with Innovate UK and Aquarius Population Health is available to read here: http://www.bivda.org.uk/3_simple_tests.pdf