NHS England has announced the first med tech/app innovations to join a new fast track payment scheme designed to accelerate uptake of cutting-edge technologies.
The first six areas to benefit from the new NHS Innovation and Technology Tariff target women giving birth, patients with chronic lung problems, men having urological surgery, and acutely ill inpatients.
The new tariff, unveiled by NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens back in June, removes the need for multiple local price negotiations by guaranteeing automatic reimbursement when an approved innovation is used, while at the same time allowing NHS England to negotiate national 'bulk buy' price discounts on behalf of hospitals, GPs and patients.
"The NHS has a proud track record of world firsts in medical innovation but getting wide uptake has often been far too slow," said Stevens. "Our new payment system brings clarity on fast track funding to get groundbreaking new treatments and technologies to NHS patients. Many of them not only improve care but will save the NHS money too."
The first chosen innovation categories are:
* Guided mediolateral episiotomy scissors to minimise the risk of obstetric injury, which can dramatically increase the quality of lives of new mothers. Also, halving related litigation costs alone could save the NHS in the region £23.5 million;
* Arterial connecting systems to reduce bacterial contamination and the accidental administration of medication. Although rare, accidental injection of intravenous medication into an arterial line can lead to catastrophic injuries. Innovations that ensure this does not happen will increase patient safety in NHS hospitals;
* Pneumonia prevention systems designed to stop ventilator-associated pneumonia, which kills between 3,000 and 6,000 people every year. Its prevention would save many lives, and save the NHS more than £100 million;
* Web-based applications for the self-management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which could potentially improve the quality of life for patients, and also save clinical commissioning groups £140,000 a year on average from reducing the need for face to face pulmonary rehabilitation sessions;
* Frozen microbiota transplantation for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection rates – Faecal microbiota transplantation offers an effective alternative to antibiotic treatment for CDI at a comparable cost, with high cure rates; and
* Prostatic urethral lift systems to treat lower urinary tract symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia as a day case, offering an alternative to existing surgical treatments that require an average hospital stay of three days and often catheterisation for many days post-surgery. Following the procedure, patients return home after a few hours, typically without catheter, and they have significantly fewer side effects and post-operative complications.
NHS England will directly fund the costs of these six innovations in the next financial year, and said it intends to will expand the number covered by the tariff for future years.
Separately from the tariff, there will also be central funding for CCGs to purchase mobile ECG devices, which patients can use to identify and measure arterial fibrillation, early detection of which could help to prevent stroke, it said.
"This welcome new approach from NHS England will help ensure a robust, accessible and effective scheme that provides timely patient access to a wide range of medical technologies," noted Peter Ellingworth, chief executive of Association of British Healthcare Industries, commenting on the move.