The roundtable made several initial recommendations that will form the basis of further discussions:
• There needs to be a clear signal from the most senior levels of NHS leadership to give the system permission to engage with the life sciences industry and this will have to be a key component if we are to deliver transformed services.
• Existing governance on conflicts of interest, transparency and codes of conduct is comprehensive and robust, but needs to be presented more positively as an enabler of cross-sector working rather than a series of obstacles to be overcome.
• The single payer system is a distinguishing benefit of the NHS. However, we need to achieve faster decision making if we are to secure a competitive edge over other countries.
• There needs to be a greater connection between innovation and research on the one hand, and policies and approaches to care redesign on the other. Too often they are seen as separate endeavors.
• The best way to build trust is to work with the willing to break down barriers between industry and the NHS and challenge misperceptions – one successful project, communicated with shared pride, will do more to convert skeptics than any amount of rhetoric. To enable this, successes must be celebrated jointly and not kept under the radar.
• There should be an active drive to ‘cross-pollinate’ the boards of industry and NHS organisations.
The traffic is currently infrequent and one-way, with too few NHS executives on boards of industry, which is resulting in missed learning opportunities.
• The most effective cross-sector partnerships arise from shared passions, with business cases built on delivering patient and system benefits rather than administering a ‘quick fix’ in-year.
Companies and NHS organisations need to be more challenging of themselves and each other as to whether their plans to work together meet these standards.
• The focus of partnership needs to be more about the whole person and less about ‘linear pathways and/or body parts’. Patients are often on multiple complex pathways. A more holistic approach is needed to meet the needs of an ageing population, with increasing co-morbidities and complex needs.
• NHS organisations need to be clear about articulating health challenges in a way that enables industry to respond with solutions that will work. These challenges should include prevention, where the life sciences industry has a high level of interest in the same goals. The AHSNs have a key role to play in this process and can also help triage proposed industry solutions.
• For maximum ‘UK plc’ impact, industry and the NHS should seek to partner where there is a strong asset base (for example Biobank) and high health need. Ambitious targets should be set – for example, gene sequencing every cancer patient. The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) has a key part to play in identifying areas of greatest potential national benefit, as well as in providing research support and leadership.
• Participants agreed that ‘every system gets what it measures’ and that system levers consequently need to be aligned to stimulate cross-sector working, build the UK life sciences asset base and improve patient outcomes.
• Economic alignment is key. Expecting returns on collaboration in-year is not helpful. Equally, efficiency gains need to be realisable.
• We must continue to strive for better ways of scaling up innovation and spreading good practice more quickly. This should be the focus of further work and build on existing programmes, such as RightCare and Getting It Right First Time in England. It should also be viewed in the context of the enhanced role of the AHSN network in delivering Accelerated Access Collaborative commitments in England.