We were delighted to host our MGM in the glorious surroundings of the Royal Institute of British Architects, where members enjoyed presentations from esteemed speakers such as Professor Dame Sue Hill before a concluding expert panel session to better understand how to work more effectively with the NHS.
Indeed, after opening comments from BIVDA Chair Helen Tucker, the Chief Scientific Officer for England began her keynote address. Professor Dame Sue Hill outlined the number of national commitments to diagnostics which highlighted the importance of partnerships in meeting national challenges and recognised the strength of our industry and academia. She evoked the image of a ‘three=legged stool’ to illustrate the fundamental collaboration between industry, academia and the NHS.
Diagnostics, she stated, is central to moving towards a preventative form of healthcare; an objective integral to current and future health policy. The many transformation programmes are working towards the goal of 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by March 2025.
The future of health will be shaped by diagnostics. The growth of personalised medicine, predictive analysis and real-time data, remote patient monitoring, and point of care genomic analysis will be just some of features of the new diagnostics revolution, she claimed. A mention was given to the breakneck speed of genomic development as new areas are further explored, such as proteomics and metabolomics.
Her final message was clear, and optimistic: the direction of travel is extremely positive, supported by DHSC, other government agencies and departments, and NHS leaders. There has never been a better time for collaboration.
Mark Oakes, Head of Life Sciences at the Department of Business and Trade then followed. He tried to demystify the newly created department, describing it as a adopting a more holistic approach to business and business support. The life sciences was pinpointed as being key to the free trade agreements that his department brokers, highlighting the strength of our industry and the UK’s global reputation.
Mr Oakes also alluded to the number of government commitments to the life sciences industry to demonstrate that it remained a high political priority. He also namechecked the UK Export Finance service, which is specifically prioritising life sciences companies, therefore members may want to engage with the service if they are hitherto unfamiliar.
Representatives from DHSC were then on hand to provide an update on the MedTech Strategy. Emily Roseveare claimed that the MedTech Strategy’s aims were already coming to fruition, evidencing the IDAP pathway (which closes on 29 October!) and the recent £30 million allocation to ICSs to help rollout innovations in their areas.
Joseph Burt, Head of Diagnostics at MHRA, treated the audience to a regulatory update. He spoke of the agency’s ambition to complement vigilance with post-market surveillance and ultimately elevate UK IVDs to achieve the highest standard of safety.
Mr Burt referenced the fast-moving nature of medtech, which develops at such a high pace that it can be very difficult to regulate, specifically naming AI and genetic testing. AI is both terrifying and hugely exciting and is changing the very definition of IVDs. He claimed that we now need to think of software as IVDs, too. The presentation ended with a plea to members to reach out and engage with MHRA. MHRA values the opinions and feedback of BIVDA members highly and always seeks to understand what industry needs.
The event also marked Helen Dent’s inaugural MGM speech as Interim CEO. Helen used the opportunity to speak about BIVDA’s strategy going forward. BIVDA’s ambitions include increasing external engagement, better understanding of perceptions of BIVDA through an Ipsos Mori project, and releasing more papers from working parties.
Engagement is, of course, a two-way street. Helen implored members to provide more feedback to our association, especially when asked through consultation responses and other calls. Response rates are currently too low and we need more members’ voices to better represent the industry.
The final speaker was David Thorne, a BIVDA-favourite who holds the position of Transformation Lead at Well Up North PCN. David spoke candidly about the current challenges in the NHS in his presentation focusing on ICS progress post-implementation. The 30% reduction in NHSE’s management budget was having tangible effects and makes coordination much harder.
David continually made the point that in the NHS, finance is everything. The system is already stretched – or even beyond stretched, with ICSs already recording a £4 billion overspend – with any innovation which can save money regarded as a panacea. He did stress, however, that introducing said innovation was not a linear path and companies had to be strategically smart and speak to the right people to initiate adoption.
Virtual wards and appealing to ICSs’ local needs represent huge opportunities in future for IVD companies, as well as any innovation which can democratise tech and therefore remove work from senior primary care staff.
He suggested members consider the often-ignored Primary Care Networks (PCNs) when pitching innovations. The PCNs, numbering over a thousand in England, have plenty of resources coupled with the permission to independently implement changes. These changes, if successful, can spread quickly across local networks and could be an extremely beneficial avenue for companies.
David remained on stage for the concluding panel session, also featuring NHS experts Scott McKenzie and Judy Willits, alongside co-founder of the Life Science Access Academy Ian Chamberlain. Feedback from this session was excellent, as each panelist provided several nuggets of wisdom which helped members to better understand the mentality and inner workings of the NHS, including how best to navigate the labyrinthine organisation. Members also posed questions to the panel who adroitly dispensed their advice.
A key message emerged from the session: while times may be tough for the health service, there are many opportunities, however, they often require more strategic, innovative thinking.
It was terrific to meet so many members for lunch afterwards and, as ever, just as good to see everyone networking. BIVDA events are an immensely valuable opportunity to network and support one another, which underlines our credentials as a familial-like association.
A final thank you to everyone who attended and all the speakers for their fantastic presentations!