The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is extending its appraisal capacities with the launch of a new programme specifically tailored to assess medical technologies for use on the National Health Service.

According to the Institute, the aptly named Evaluation Pathway Programme for Medical Technologies will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of products such as medical devices and diagnostic tests to help ensure their faster uptake in the health service, taking forward the vision laid out by Sir Ara Darzi’s in High Quality Care for All of simplifying the process to help patients and the NHS “benefit more quickly and consistently from innovative medical technologies,” NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon explained.

Innovative medical technologies will be cherry-picked for appraisal by the newly-formed Medical Technologies Advisory Committee which will be lead by consultant vascular surgeon Professor Bruce Campbell, who has garnered extensive experience of NICE’s evaluation processes and guidance production from his previous roles at the cost watchdog, the Institute said.

Following selection the MTAC will then direct each technology through the appropriate programme, which “may mean NICE evaluating them to produce guidance about their use, and it may also mean helping them to be investigated more thoroughly in research”, Prof Campbell said.

The new pathway for medical technologies has been developed in conjunction with the medical technologies industry, the Department of Health and the Centre for Evidence-based Purchasing, and marks “a significant development in the relationship between industry and NICE, which can only benefit the NHS”, according to Mark Samuels, British In-Vitro Diagnostics Association.

“The Programme will make it easier for the NHS to understand which new medical technologies, including devices and diagnostics, potentially offer significant benefits to patients,” he added.

The inaugural meeting of the MTAC is scheduled to take place on Friday. The publication of draft methods and process guides is targeted for spring 2010, and the first guidance in the autumn, the Institute said.