NHS England has announced new steps to accelerate innovation in new treatments and diagnostics in 2015/16, including “inviting interested manufacturers that are prepared to contribute to the expansion of the Commissioning through Evaluation programme and the related Early Access to Medicines programme.”

“We will aim to accelerate the cost-effective and affordable deployment of technologies and drugs, in light of the government’s Medicines and Medical Technology Review. At the same time, we will increase the ability of local commissioners to shape their own priorities for investment through place-based commissioning,” it says, in new annual planning guidance which has, for the first time, been jointly produced for the entire NHS by NHS England, Public Health England, Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Care Quality Commission and Health Education England.

Next year, NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will develop a deployment model for new technologies, it says. Among other goals, this will aim to develop a structured method for introducing new technologies following NICE approval, including for example operational pilots to generate real-world evidence.

“This deployment model should enable the decommissioning of outmoded legacy technologies that are no longer delivering sufficient value for patients and taxpayers,” says the guidance.

It also includes new requirements for commissioners to support the project, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron this year, under which the NHS will by 2017 seek to sequence 100,000 whole genomes, working through its NHS Genomic Medicines Centres. This project will act as a catalyst for the wider transformation in relation to diagnostics, pathology and functional genomics, and to support this transformation, it says, commissioners should:

- realign to commission pathology services from Genomics Local Laboratory Hubs – being re-procured by NHS England during 2015/16;

- ensure that diagnostic and scientific services are accredited and part of a quality assurance scheme;

- provide data to enable performance and outcomes of diagnostic services to be monitored; and

- work towards integration of all diagnostic test results with clinical data, registries and appropriate clinical audit.

The annual guidance also reveals that front-line NHS services in England - including primary care, local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and specialised services - are to receive an extra £1.5 billion for 2015/16.

Every CCG will receive a real-terms budget increase over the period, while spending on GP and primary care services will, for the first time in number of years, grow in real terms at a higher rate than for other local health services, in recognition of the pressures in primary care, it says. 

The guidance, which is backed by the recently-announced £1.98 billion of additional funding on top of the money which the NHS is expecting for next year, also states that, to start tackling underinvestment in mental health services, every CCG will be expected to use its extra budget to increase funding for local mental health services in real terms next year by at least the level of the CCG’s overall funding growth. 

A further £110 million of dedicated purchasing power is also being injected nationally to improve services for people with severe mental health problems, with anxiety and depression, and with eating disorders - particularly children and adolescents.