It seems that the home healthcare market is continuing to flourish despite the current tough era of recession, as growing activity in the sector is driven by the potential benefits to all parties involved – patients, the National Health Service and independent healthcare providers.

There are many factors fuelling the exponential growth of the homecare market in the UK today, including: the potential for improved drug compliance and reducing medicines waste; boosting treatment outcomes; freeing up hospital beds; cutting down waiting lists; a drive to push care into the community; the ageing population; potential VAT savings for hospitals; and, of course, the generous discounts available to hospital pharmacies from pharmaceutical companies.

In addition, while research into the area is lacking, a study published through the Northern Ireland Health Economics Group and highlighted by the NHS Confederation earlier this year found that the NHS could potentially reap savings of around 80% through the delivery of acute care in the home opposed to in hospital. While hospital costs in Northern Ireland are traditionally more expensive that in the UK, Professor Ciaran O'Neill, of Queen's University Belfast, reportedly believes “significant savings” would still apply elsewhere in the country.

Also recognising its potential, new players such as Evolution, BUPA Home Health Care and most recently Medco Health Solutions - which announced a new partnership to offer homecare pharmacy support services to the NHS in August - have stepped into the market, with Healthcare at Home remaining the lead player.

Increasingly, these companies are working directly with pharma to deliver specialised medicines direct to patients suffering from diseases such as cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS, cancer and more. This is attractive to both pharma and the home care agencies because it lifts the business from being a local hospital trust project to a nationally-based operation.

The pharmaceutical industry also finds the association with home care companies beneficial as they are held in high regard by hospital management who enjoy the notion of not paying VAT if they use such groups, a saving which they can they use to pay for their services.

Apart from a lack of sales information that makes it difficult to estimate the size of the home care market, the fact that some hospitals are beginning to outsource their pharmacy services to retail pharmacies further clouds the picture. While hospital discounts may be ring fenced to hospital patients only, there is little to prevent either appropriate patients being repatriated from primary care to hospital care or hospital patients remaining longer in hospital care to take advantage of these discounts.

So the home care market in the UK is definitely worth watching.

PharmaTimes will be bringing together the key players to address these issues and more on 9 October at the Dorchester, London. For more details and to register your attendance click here or contact Jessica Evans at PharmaTimes: jessica@pharmatimes.com or call + 44 (0)20 8878 8566 By Geoff Frew