The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust are putting their heads together under a new joint-working scheme to improve the commissioning of health services.

According to the ABPI, the aim of the new scheme is “to bring additional resource to the PCT as it develops its commissioning plans”, which are designed to assess patients’ treatment needs and ensure they are being delivered in the most cost-effective manner.

A spokesman for the Association told PharmaTimes UK News that the industry can offer particular competencies which can help the National Health Service to make better buying decisions, such as science and understanding of particular diseases, prevalence data, evidence-based studies on drug effectiveness, health and clinical outcomes data and risk management.

The NHS is data rich and information poor, he said, and stressed that the scheme is all about the two parties working together to generate better quality information to help the commissioning of the right services on a local level.

Explaining the motives behind the relationship, Peter Rowe, Chief Executive of Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT, stressed that the appropriate use of medicines is “central” to improving healthcare and tackling health inequalities, and that joint working with pharmaceutical companies will “bring new expertise and resources, and will make a significant contribution to our ambition to become world class commissioners”.

Results of the pilot scheme are to be shared with other pharmaceutical companies and NHS organisations in the hope that any learnings from the project will help boost understanding about how the industry can play a key role in improving service commissioning and thereby patient care.

Closer relationship
The government is certainly hot on bringing the pharmaceutical industry and NHS closer together to help drive service improvement. Early last month, the Department of Health published official guidance on such partnerships to help encourage new relationships focused on boosting patient care, and just last week the DH and ABPI launched a new tool kit to encourage NHS organisations and staff to consider joint working as “a realistic option for the delivery of high-quality healthcare” and provide the necessary information for entering into such relationships.

Given its extensive knowledge on illnesses and innovative medicines, the industry certainly has a lot to offer the health service in terms of helping to boost patient care, and the government is hoping that the NHS will increasingly tap into this rich source of expertise to put in place a variety of locally tailored healthcare initiatives.

“Targeted and ethical joint working between the industry and the NHS can bring great benefits to patients and the NHS, and this latest co-operative venture is a prime example of the sort of endeavour that we and the government are seeking to encourage,” commented Martin Anderson, ABPI Director of NHS Policy and Partnerships.

Projects underway
There have already been documented successes of how such relationships can deliver real benefits to patients. East Lincolnshire PCT, for example, has worked with three firms to bring down rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The parties joined forces to root out patients suspected to have the condition, as well as train clinicians to manage these patients and set up special COPD clinics. The results were impressive; the PCT recorded a 23% drop in admission rates compared to single-figure fall booked by other trusts in the area.

And there are other promising examples currently underway, such as Nottingham PCT’s Happy Hearts programme, a ground-breaking new project that has seen a group of six pharmaceutical companies work hand-in-hand with the PCT to help boost patient care and better treatment outcomes in heart disease, the UK’s number one killer.

“Increasingly, the importance of [the industry’s] knowledge being shared with our partners in the NHS for the benefit of patients is being recognised,” the ABPI’s director-general Richard Barker said last month following the launch of the government’s joint-working guidance.

PharmaTimes is running a meeting on joint industry-NHS working on April 28 in London, at which PCTs, industry and the NHS will provide examples of recent joint working at national, regional and local levels as well as recent learning on what to do and not to do. Click here for more information or email