The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has unveiled a new service that seeks to accelerate the adoption and spread of innovative health technologies through the National Health Service.

Its Office for Market Access will work directly with companies providing a dedicated team at NICE that they can approach for enquiries, to steer them more efficiently through the health technology evaluation process. 

The team will offer tailored support, helping commercial stakeholders identify the most appropriate journey for their products within NICE as well as facilitating “beneficial interactions with the right people” across regulatory, research, NHS, government and trade organisations.

The OMA “will speed up the adoption of innovative and cost-effective health technologies by helping companies to get the right evidence, develop a better business case and engage with the right people,” said the Institute’s health technology evaluation centre director, Carole Longson.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry has welcomed the initiative, noting that it presents a real opportunity “for all key stakeholders that play a role in getting new medicines to patients, to engage and interact together more closely”.

“Any initiative which strengthens relationships and delivers earlier, more frequent and meaningful dialogue between the life sciences industry, regulators, NICE, and the NHS can only help speed up and improve the adoption and use of innovative medicines for NHS patients,” said its director of value and access, Paul Catchpole.

According to media reports, the annual cost of running the OMA will lie around £167,000, with around 30% coming from service fees and the rest from grants.

Slow uptake

NICE’s move comes as the UK continues to lag well behind its international peers on providing patients with access to new, innovative therapies.

Earlier this year, a government report found that uptake of new medicines is just 11% of the average of other developed countries after one year, less than a third of the average after two years, and only half the average after four years. 

Also, the new Innovation Scorecard, which was published earlier this month, “shows once again unacceptably wide variation in the uptake of NICE-approved medicines in England,” the ABPI said, highlighting persistent problems in access. 

It is hoped that the government’s current Accelerated Access Review will help address some of the barriers preventing prompt access of transformative health technologies. Interim findings of the report are expected this month, with full findings due in April next year.