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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 13:29 GMT
Innovations not reaching patients
MRI scan
MRI scan availability is limited
Measures are to be taken to speed up the delivery of lifesaving new medical technologies to patients.

A report by the Healthcare Industries Task Force says innovations do not reach patients quickly enough, partly due to structural flaws in the NHS.

It recommends the NHS's Device Evaluation Service be modernised, and an innovation centre established to stimulate to promote new ideas.

Health Minister Lord Warner has pledged to act on the recommendations.

A lot of technology is available, but it is a case of how can we speed this up across the whole of the NHS and develop innovation, and really improve patient health.
Sir Christopher O'Donnell
The task force was set up by the Department of Health and industry last year, and charged with drawing up proposals to promote better use of medical technology in the NHS.

Among its other recommendations is the creation of academic centres of excellence to pioneer specialist treatments and techniques.

It also says NHS staff require improved training and education on the use of medical devices.

Better information should also be made available to patients and the public on healthcare products.

And a new data collection system is needed to gain a clearer picture of the industry and its performance.

Scans

Sir Christopher O'Donnell is co-chairman of the task force and chief executive of the medical equipment company Smith and Nephew.

He said: "A lot of technology is available, but it is a case of how can we speed this up across the whole of the NHS and develop innovation, and really improve patient health."

Sir Christopher said examples of technology which could be made more widely available included MRI scanners, deep brain probes for Parkinson's disease and new materials for orthopaedic surgery.

"The NHS is not a unitary market, it is series of trust hospitals.

"What we are looking to do is have a consistent evaluation system for new medical technology which is also locked into the procurement system in such a way that once you have tested something, and got a firm opinion on it, you can get it more widely used more quickly across the whole of the country."

Sir Christopher said it was particularly important to help smaller companies gain access to the huge NHS market.

Health Minister, Lord Warner, welcomed the report.

He said: "An enhanced Device Evaluation Service and a new Innovation Centre are particular practical improvements we want to follow through with.

"We will continue to work in partnership to encourage the best use of NHS resources and stimulate science and industry in the UK."




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