The DHSC Design for Life programme is focused on reducing the volume of single use devices and improving capacity for reuse, remanufacture and materials recovery, and delivering the vision of the right products at the right price and in the right place.
Design for Life is a collaborative initiative between government, industry, the health and care sector, and academia to explore and identify practical actions that address the challenges of resource security and efficiency, supply resilience, net zero and single-use plastics facing MedTech in the UK. These challenges were highlighted in the Government’s Medical Technology Strategy (Feb 2023), published by the Department of Health and Social Care.
The MedTech sector has become heavily reliant on single-use medical devices, which exposes safe and continued patient care to significant vulnerability. Volatility in raw material and energy supply and prices, trade embargoes and tariffs, transport constraints, and sudden spikes in demand are all disruptive factors faced by this supply model.
The programme has set 4 priorities which include;
Priority One – Resilience and Continuity of Supply
Priority Two – Innovative and Dynamic Markets
Priority Three – Enabling Infrastructure
Priority Four – Specific Market Focus
These will be delivered through resource security and efficiency, supply resilience plans, UK MedTech capability and capacity and commercial standards and contracts.
BIVDA has been involved with this programme since its launch in March where we took part in themed discussions on the fundamental aspects of medtech provision to identify the primary barriers and enablers of increased reuse, remanufacture, and materials recovery. These included.
- Product Design
Exploring how product design can best enable efficient reuse, remanufacture, and materials recovery at end of life.
- Clinical Efficacy and Safety
Exploring how devices that enter or emerge from circular pathways can have robust processes that ensure efficacy and safety.
- UK Growth and Economic Opportunity
Exploring the scale of and how to optimise the UK economic opportunity presented by a shift to increased reuse, remanufacture, and materials recovery.
- Commercial Models and Logistical Changes
Exploring how to enable commercially and logistically feasible models of supply and what good looks like.
- Infrastructure and Workforce
Exploring the type and scale of facilities and skills that can best enable efficient reuse, remanufacture, and materials recovery.
- Policy and Regulation
Exploring how we can create a regulatory environment, with clear and practical standards, that can best serve to enable change.
The progress of the project so far is outlined below.
The Scope of the initiative is as follows.
The aim is to improve Supply Chain resilience, grow the UK economy, contribute to Net Zero and deliver waste reduction.
The plan is to develop a roadmap which will draw together a common understanding of priorities across the health system and industry. The roadmap will include details of the current landscape, the vision for the future and key enablers which may include research frameworks, critical paths and assessments and the next steps are being developed to start and to progress towards a change in the manufacture, use and disposal of products in the NHS. These next steps will indicate priorities and place ownership on the relevant organisations in the process.
The proposed Roadmap Structure is expected to contain:
- Programme context
- Landscape & Case for Change
- Vision & Core Objectives by Thematic Area
- Solution Readiness Assessment
- Roadmap Summary
- Deep Dives (including recommendations, owners, timelines and dependencies)
- Areas of Research Interest
This roadmap will be underpinned by the overall Design for Life Vision which outlines the intended direction.
With a distinct change from a linear process to a circular process across the sector.
There are pockets of innovation that take into account circularity across the MedTech sector, and these are usually more industry or clinician led as opposed to government let and systemic challenges hold back transformational change.
These challenges include clinical efficacy ad safety, leadership and culture, data and metrics, regulation and policy, economic value and value creation and technology and infrastructure which are familiar issues for BIVDA members and representative of the overall sector challenges we have across the UK.
There is significant opportunity to scale circular adoption, and to increase the application of existing remanufactured devices and to increase the range of remanufactured products which are available for use in the UK.
Key enablers which BIVDA and BIVDA members can influence and undertake include more collaboration with industry across the first-tier supply chain and deeper into suppliers supply chains, change in mindset and activity of NHS and other healthcare providers with the inclusion and support of regulators and policy makers and clinicians and patients and this will be underpinned with evidence generation and research from academic institutions.
More test cases are needed to feed data and learnings into the evidence for the creation of a circular economy at this stage and industry needs to see support and growing demand in order to be able to pursue this model as it will need to show a tangible investment to transition from linear to circular in a relatively short amount of time.
The Design for Life programme needs to build momentum and movement towards systemic tipping points.
The 6 working groups have so far explored DfL themes in detail to enable the development of a MedTech
Roadmap and explored set themes, identified key enablers, produced recommendations, refined the scope
based on a high-level view of circular MedTech systems, with the outputs currently including:
- Key areas of interest
- Strategic enablers of change
- Gaps in activity
- Recommendations for actionable next steps
- Noted dependencies across the six themes
These outputs will inform the next phase of Design for Life and will be supported with newly developed evidence,
coordinated and deconflicted, given leads and/or champions to kick-off and be grouped thematically to enable detailed assessments. Less certain topics will be coordinated into a package of research, communicated as knowledge gaps to potential partners and further prioritised.
As part of this – Design for Life will work closely with The Critical Minerals Taskforce with a Task and Finish group undertaking a 4 stage approach.
It aims to populate an industry resilience framework including strategy planning and regulations, circular economy, supply chain mapping and traceability, third party and sub-contractor selection an onboarding, product design and governance to understand and improve the reliance on critical minerals and the resilience of the sector and individual organisations and to understand what other actions the companies working within this sector have completed to mitigate and address the risks.
This programme is a worthwhile and important part of the MedTech strategy and BIVDA will continue to prioritise sustainability and innovation as part of the core strategic programme and this event provided a clearer picture of what the direction of travel is the UK (and global) health sector and provided a better understanding of discussions to date. The detail provided to the group members and steering group (which BIVDA sits on) clarified and enabled us to start to prioritise the recommendations from each of the 6 groups and created even stronger links across the different organisations so that there can be further collaboration and alignment into the next phase.
There will be a database to build the evidence for impacts and practicalities, areas of future research identified and informed to academic institutions and start to collect metrics from an identified baseline.
Design for Life are looking for further case studies, documents or links to information that members feel will be relevant to driving forward the work on Design for Life. Please send examples to email@example.com as soon as available to head into the next phase.
Finally, the event was held at the Thackray Museum of Medicine. It was an excellent venue to hold the event, showing the past innovations and how far MedTech has come since the Greeks to now!
Dr Laura Sellers, the museum Curator, mentioned that they are looking to improve their collections, particularly their contemporary collections from 2000 to present, and would be interested in discussing the possibility of adding new instruments and technologies to the museum. If you have something you think could be important to the history of medicine and the general public, please contact their collections manager Louise Crossley: firstname.lastname@example.org. and let us at BIVDA know too so we can celebrate history and look to the future with our members!