While the NHS and academia have long-standing relationships, commonly working together to investigate the use of innovative medical and surgical therapies, the NHS' relationship with the life sciences industry is a slightly more strained one.
In a report published this month by the ABPI (Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry) and the NHS Confederation, calls are made for greater collaboration between the two parties to improve patient care and reduce costs to the healthcare system. It is thought that increased NHS collaboration with industry can improve understanding of how different patient populations respond to therapies, how well these therapies actually work in the real world and how medical innovation can be used to improve patient care pathways.
The report highlights current barriers to collaboration; citing capacity and resource as being major issues - but also noting negative attitudes to working with life sciences firms due to historical (mis)conceptions around their motives. Furthermore, the report also contains case studies detailing how previously successful collaborations have had a positive impact on patient outcomes, including how AstraZeneca worked with the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to improve post-myocardial infarction care - in turn leading to a ~50% reduction in acute coronary syndrome readmissions.
Overall this report is designed to stimulate discussion and kick off a wider conversation on the topic - something I believe is wholly worthwhile. Currently it feels that we may be missing significant opportunities to improve patient care in the NHS, which could be addressed by supporting and encouraging greater links with the life sciences industry.
The idea that collaboration with industry and research is mission critical has not been universally adopted, and there remains a danger that this activity will be seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must do’