Putting new tools for health into the hands of UK citizens

16 March 2015

A new cross-party Parliamentary group is to be launched following the UK General Election in May this year to focus on the potential health and economic benefits of new and emerging bioscience and technology, and how to prepare for their use in the National Health Service (NHS).

Efforts to examine factors that affect how quickly health innovations are transferred into clinical practice are welcome, notably the new Innovative Medicines and Medical Technology Review. However, it takes a great deal more than research to move new tests and tools into the hands of everyday health professionals. Science is also delivering new opportunities all the time; some have significant potential to improve healthcare, but may also require wider preparations to maximise this potential, such as legal and policy developments, public debate, novel funding mechanisms or other measures.

The planned new group for Bioscience & Technology in Healthcare  will be for all politicians who want to see the NHS benefit promptly from UK investment and excellence in science and technology. It will identify potentially transformative developments as they emerge, along with their implications for healthcare and potential barriers to their use; this may include consideration of economic, logistical, ethical, legal and social factors and other policy issues.

Membership will be open to all members of the House of Lords or House of Commons. The group will be chaired by Lord Norman Warner , with the House of Commons co-chair to be confirmed after the election, and the secretariat provided by the independent, non-partisan health policy think-tank the PHG Foundation. Other prospective partner organisations for the group are BMJ, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and CASMI.

Talking about the plans for the new group, Lord Warner commented: “We need to be clear about what science and technology can really offer us in creating a sustainable, patient-centric NHS, and understand how we can put new tools to improve health into the hands of every citizen. I encourage strong cross-party involvement in this invaluable opportunity”.

Dr Julian Huppert MP said: We are brilliant here in the UK at performing world-leading biomedical research, but we are not good enough at getting the benefits of that research into the NHS. This group should be able to help make sure that we benefit patients as much as possible using new bioscience and technology”.

The proposed new group is intended to complement the existing All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research, for which the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) provides the secretariat. PHG Foundation Policy Adviser Lucia von Bredow explained that, whilst medical research is absolutely vital for generating new biomedical tools to improve healthcare, the focus of the new group would be on anticipating the impact of emerging innovations on health services and ensuring that they are ready to use them promptly and cost-effectively to benefit patients.

PHG Foundation Director Dr Hilary Burton said that an exciting programme of activities could be expected once the group was formally launched.

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