NHS England has announced plans for a new "explicit national reimbursement route" for med tech innovations, under which patients will get free access to devices and apps.
A new Innovation and Technology tariff category will remove the need for multiple local price negotiations, and instead guarantee 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, it said.
The move should accelerate uptake of new medtech devices and apps for patients with diabetes, heart conditions, asthma, sleep disorders, and other chronic health conditions, and many other areas such as infertility and pregnancy and mental health.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens noted that, while the health service has a "proud track record of world firsts in medical innovation", getting wide uptake has often been "slow and frustrating".
"Now the NHS will have a streamlined way of getting ground-breaking and practical new technologies into the hands of patients and our frontline nurses, doctors and other staff. By doing that, we can transform people's lives," he told the NHS Confederation's annual conference.
A new round of recruitment to the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme, which supports developers with tried-and-tested innovations to spread them further and faster across the health service, has also been announced.
Earlier this year it was revealed that more than three million patients had begun tapping into new apps, safety devices, on-line networks, and a stream of other new technologies and services during the first nine months of the NIA programme.
Examples of innovations supported by the scheme which could now become routinely commissioned in the NHS include: MyCOPD - an app which allows patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder to self-manage their condition on their phone or tablet; AliveCor - a mobile heart monitor that instantly captures electrocardiogram (ECG) recordings, allowing the user to detect, monitor and manage heart arrhythmias; and PneuX – a cuffed ventilation tube and inflating device used to electronically monitor patients breathing in intensive care to prevent bacteria leaking into the lungs - something that occurs with standard tubes and can result in ventilator-associated pneumonia, the leading cause of hospital-acquired mortality in intensive care.