In most professions and industries, collaboration is recognised as the key to success. In healthcare, various parts of the care process are provided by different organisations to produce the final product – a first-class patient experience. At Novartis, we believe that greater collaboration is the key to a world-class healthcare system that puts UK patients at the centre of their care.
Historically, a vendor-supplier relationship has existed between industry and bodies such as the NHS, Department of Health, and the wider government. We supply medicines and they purchase them. I believe that it is crucial to rewire this relationship, to foster interaction and shared thinking, for the long-term benefit of patients.
Our country faces a perfect storm that could have an unprecedented impact on health in the UK. The combination of an ageing population and a subsequent reduction in taxpayers (people of working age), and now the uncertainty of Brexit, provide us with an opportunity to come together as an industry, and develop solutions to navigate the unsettling period to come.
Novartis engages in a number of collaborative projects with the NHS; these projects seek to add value at every stage of the care process, from prevention to intervention, in an effort to address key challenges faced by doctors, nurses, managers, and ultimately to improve the overall experience for patients. Our focus is improving patient care through rapid diagnosis, accelerated access, and outcomes-based payment models. These initiatives have resulted in reducing the level of patient referrals back into the healthcare system, realigning funding so that CCGs pay for appropriately treated patients, and greater secondary care integration.
Looking at the bigger picture, the UK lags behind its peer group when it comes to new medicine uptake. A person in France or Germany is almost five times more likely to gain access to any newly developed medicine. Patients in the UK should not have to wait to access the latest innovations that could improve and extend their lives. Early uptake and a strong flow of new treatments into the system have huge value implications for national health. Innovative medicines are being produced all the time that can save money, time, and resources for the NHS, but they are not being utilised.
Novartis welcomes the Five Year Forward View, and the Life Sciences Strategy, which places patients squarely at the centre of its recommendations. However, the devil is in the detail, and we would embrace the opportunity to work with the NHS and government to put together an implementation plan to ensure we attain these goals. Novartis is hungry for a conversation that looks to be positively disruptive, reimagining models of care, funding channels, and the process by which we interact.
The basis to effective collaboration is aligning long-term aims, and, above all, transparency. It comes back to rewiring that entrenched relationship, and redefining the roles of supplier and purchaser to move forward. Novartis always approaches a collaborative project with the experience of NHS staff as our starting point, considering their concerns first and foremost.
The UK is one of the world’s biggest economies – I’m sure that all UK healthcare professionals are united in wishing to see a healthcare system that reflects this stature. In order to think outside the box, and find innovative solutions for the NHS, it will take a handful of forward-thinking companies and leaders in healthcare to step out, come together, and demonstrate how it can be done. Novartis relishes the chance to be part of that leading pack.
Haseeb Ahmad is the managing direction of Novartis.
A doctor’s view
Dr Raj Thakkar, general practitioner, primary care cardiology lead for Oxford Academic Health Science Network, collaborated with Novartis on the Cardiac Champions Project, a post-graduate diploma in cardiology.
“When partnering with industry, it is essential all parties involved have clear boundaries when it comes to conflict of interest guidelines. With the correct governance structures in place, I see no reason why partnerships shouldn’t be created to improve clinical outcomes. In the case of my own Cardiac Champions programme, if it will improve outcomes in heart failure, and reduce rates of stroke and coronary disease, it seems counter-intuitive not to collaborate. Historically, there has been a nervousness in the public sector about partnering with industry. This, I believe, has started to change, especially in the last couple of years. Like any other healthcare professional, I want to see real outcomes, an improvement in quality of life, a better experience for patients, an improved sustainable health economy, relief for social services, and to get these I’m interested in doing things differently, as long as I work within the rules. If we don’t move care upstream and get ahead of the curve, we’re not going to survive as a health economy. We need to enable better prevention, earlier diagnosis, and optimise care 24/7. Supporting continuous improvement and innovative system-wide sustainable change is essential. If partnering with industry helps to achieve that, then we should do so, for the greater good of the population.
I hope that this successful partnership will pave the way for more partnership with industry.”