Chris Netherton, M.D.

Bringing vital innovation into the NHS


This month, NHS England has announced four ground-breaking medical innovations that it will be championing for adoption across the country. Fast-tracking important new technologies in this way will bring benefits to thousands of patients.

In June 2017, NHS England launched the Innovation and Technology Payment Programme (ITP). The aim of ITP was to help create the conditions and culture change necessary for proven innovations to be adopted faster and more systematically.

The technologies are evaluated through a competitive process. NHS England then buys them centrally, which removes the barriers to the spread of these innovations. This means that patients can get access to these new technologies much more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

The four technologies that have been selected for this fast-track process are:

HeartFlow: Using data from a standard CT scan, HeartFlow Analysis creates a personalized 3D model of the coronary arteries and analyses the impact that blockages have on blood flow. This can help to more rapidly diagnose patients with suspected coronary artery disease, while also avoiding the need for invasive procedures such as coronary angiography. Up to 35,000 patients a year could benefit from this approach.

Plus Sutures: One of the main problems with surgical procedures is the risk of the wound becoming infected, which can lead to life-threatening conditions such as MRSA. These sutures are coated with an anti-bacterial material which helps to significantly reduce the chance of infection for the patient.

SecurAcath: Some patients need a catheter to facilitate intravenous treatment for extended periods in hospital or as an outpatient. SecurAcath is a device for holding a catheter securely in position, which helps to reduce the risk of infection and improve the speed and quality of patient care. Up to 120,000 patients per year could find this device helpful.

Endocuff Vision: This is a new type of ‘bowel scope’ that helps to improve the quality of colorectal examinations, increasing the detection of lesions that could lead to cancer. In England, 34,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and early detection is crucial for successful treatment.

At Microtest, we have been working with NHS partners for over 30 years and have seen the rapid progress that has been made in the adoption of new technologies and the impact they have had on patient care. Clinical software is one area that has helped to revolutionise medical practice. We have seen how vital it is to be continually innovating and pushing at the boundaries of what technology can do for patients.

It is great to see NHS England taking this initiative and doing all that it can to remove some of the bureaucratic hurdles and cultural factors that can sometimes get in the way of the wider adoption of valuable new approaches to patient care. This will also help to encourage further innovation from the private sector, if they can see the potential for their products to reach such a wide audience.

The NHS’ innovation agencies, in the form of the 15 Academic Health Science Networks across the country, will now be responsible for accelerating the uptake of these innovations at a local level. It will be fascinating to follow their progress.