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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 15:04 GMT 16:04 UK
NHS 'lags behind over technology'
MRI scan
Other countries spend more on equipment than the UK
The UK is lagging behind many countries in the introduction of new medical equipment, MPs warn.

The Health Select Committee found Britain spent less on technology than many countries - despite UK firms being at the forefront of development.

MPs blamed the fragmented nature of the NHS - there are about 700 trusts - for slowing the release of money.

It is the second warning in a week that the NHS does not make enough of medical technological advances.

A draft Department of Trade and Industry report said UK firms were good at developing new equipment.

But it said that in countries where doctors had more of a role in purchasing, access to new scanners and ventilators happened much more quickly.

Patients don't have access to diagnostics or treatments that can improve their quality of life
Trudie Lobban, of the Medical Technology Group

The Health Select Committee report revealed the UK spent 0.36% of GDP on medical technology compared to Germany's 0.92% and the 0.71% shelled out in the US. The European average was 0.55%.

The MPs said: "The UK is a world leader and centre for excellence for the development of new technologies, but it lags behind many countries in the implementation of these innovative products.

"The government should address the NHS preference for short-term savings as opposed to long-term advantages for patients."

However, the report acknowledged the Department of Health had begun addressing some of the issues by setting up a taskforce to improve co-ordination between the government and industry.

It said each NHS trust should appoint a "clinical champion" to promote the benefits of medical technology.

And it also pointed out that medical devices also included equipment which could be installed in a patient's home.

But the report warned members of the public could struggle to operate the equipment so assessments were needed to make sure the maximum value was gained from the technology.

'Quality of life'

Trudie Lobban, a spokeswoman for the Medical Technology Group, a campaign body, said patients were missing out on life-enhancing treatment.

"The UK doesn't spend nearly as much on medical technology as the rest of Western Europe, which means that patients don't have access to diagnostics or treatments that can improve their quality of life ."

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said one example of the problem was PET scanners, used to diagnose lung cancer.

"In the UK there are presently 5 scanners for use in clinical diagnosis, in Germany there are 80, there are 14 in Belgium.

żOn too many occasions the nature of the NHS means no-one moves until everyone moves."

Liberal Democrats health spokesman Paul Burstow said it was "essential" the NHS got better at accessing new technologies.

"Hospitals need much more freedom to control their own budgets and spend money on the equipment they need."

And a Department of Health spokesman said the report would be taken into consideration, and a full response made soon.

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