This week, BIVDA and member companies attended a roundtable with Shadow Public Health Minister Andrew Gwynne MP. This provided a valuable chance to discuss both the challenges and opportunities for in-vitro diagnostics in the UK as well as providing insight into Labour’s policy approach to health if they were to form the next Government.
Mr Gwynne was engaged throughout the meeting and was incredibly keen to know more about the ins-and-outs of the current state of industry and what it can offer the UK. He acknowledged the huge impact that healthtech has made, and will make, in the future. It has already made a difference in his own constituency, where all care homes are digitally linked to hospitals.
It was emphasised that diagnostics often suffers as it is not conducive to the traditional five-year cycles in politics. Mr Gwynne was aware of this and also agreed that Government must be more pragmatic in future regarding investment in diagnostics, notably favouring long-term cost saving benefits over instant but less impactful results. This also applies to local communities where investment in diagnostics could improve local pathways considerably.
Mr Gwynne underlined Labour’s complete commitment to the NHS and its core founding ideology, while admitting that a refresh is required to tackle some of the challenges it faces in the twenty-first century, including the backlog and infrastructure investment. Innovation, and particularly innovation in diagnostics, would be key to this vision.
Member companies also expressed their frustration at the huge barriers to adoption within the NHS and recommended that the next Government, if it was indeed a Labour administration, should seek to reform this to benefit patient outcomes and British business. The route to market is far easier for the pharmaceutical industry and must be reformed for the diagnostics industry.
All member companies and Mr Gwynne identified AMR as a monumental danger and agreed that more must be done to tackle the problem. The narrative around the issue must change and its severity reflected in both action and public awareness to avoid disastrous outcomes in future.
Mr Gwynne was excited by the potential of both AI and genetic testing in revolutionising health in the UK. The former in rapidly identifying illness and alleviating the pressure on an already stretched pathology workforce and the latter in empowering individuals to take control of their own health and prevent and/or mitigate genetically probable illnesses.
There was also agreement across the room about the need for greater pandemic surveillance. We are globally ill-prepared for a potential new pandemic, with 50 or more diseases which could, like COVID, transfer from animal to human with grave consequences. The UK demonstrated the ability to conduct effective pandemic surveillance during the pandemic and this experience should be harnessed to prevent disease outbreaks in future.
We are pleased that Mr Gwynne and the Shadow Health team are keen to ensure that this event is repeated and that dialogue should be continued regularly from now until the next general election and beyond. We look forward to the next meeting and will keep member companies updated when a date is crystallised.