A senior Department of Health official has shown a lack of understanding of the pharmaceutical industry during a speech at the PM Society’s annual lecture.

Sir John Oldham, National Clinical Lead Quality and Productivity at the DH, said he was unsure why pharma companies were so reluctant to communicate with patients, when asked by a member of the audience.

“Maybe they are scared” it will be seen as pushing products at patients, he replied. The ABPI Code of Practice and a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising was not mentioned.

The blip in knowledge was not the only faux pas of the evening. Sir John also slipped on what the acronym QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) stood for – his excuse being he had had an early start that day.

Despite the senior official’s blunders he did believe pharma had a role to play in the changing NHS.

“Recognise the shifts that are happening,” he said. “A number of companies are putting the effort into it. This is a huge opportunity working with patients to co-manage conditions and a huge opportunity to help people learn about their conditions… I’m talking about an interactive learning experience… Pharma can be a member of that team.”

He reiterated that the UK was facing a “tsunami of need” and “if we continue to manage people with long term conditions as we do now the NHS is not sustainable”.

“This is not a question of politics, it’s a question of mathematics,” he added. “We need to move from a biomedical model to a socio-medical model.”

Meanwhile, his catchphrase for the evening was: giving patients the power and information to co-manage their conditions.  

When approached by PharmaTimes UK Online on whether co-management was another word for co-payment, Sir John made it very clear that despite the changing NHS reflecting an economic issue and the need for “mature adult debate”, the new NHS did not indicate a move towards privatisation of the healthcare system.

Sir John’s lecture was followed by a speech by Leslie Galloway, chairman of the Ethical medicines Industry Group, who spoke on the problems of market access and value-based pricing.